Stephanie Alberico

Mentor: Nandakumar Narayanan, MD, PhD

Year Entered Into Program: 2012

Terminal Degree(s) Received and Year:  PhD 2017


  • Neuroscience

Research Description

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that causes motor disabilities and cognitive dysfunctions due to the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) and ventral tegmental area (VTA). PD mainly affects individuals over the age of 50 and is estimated to affect 200 out of 100,000 people. Much of the research done on PD concentrates on the motor symptoms leaving the pathways involved in the cognitive dysfunctions less well understood. The cognitive and executive dysfunctions seen in PD include deficits in short-term memory, planning, timing, and disordered thought. It is hypothesized that these symptoms are due to the degeneration of the dopaminergic neurons in the mesolimbic and mesocortical pathways, projecting from the VTA to the limbic cortices and neocortex, respectively. The overall goal of my research is to explore the role of dopamine (DA) signaling in the prefrontal cortex and its role in the cognitive symptoms of PD in different animal models of the disease. Specifically, I will test 1) the hypothesis that prefrontal neurons encoding timing are impaired after DA depletion in the VTA, and 2) that stimulating prefrontal neurons expressing D1 receptors rescues timing deficits in mice with VTA 6-hydroxydopamine lesions.


  • Graduate Research Excellence award, University of Iowa, 2017
  • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award: 1F31NS092190-01, NINDS, 2015-2018
  • Fellowship appointment on the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program (NIH T32 GM067795), University of Iowa, 2014-2015
  • Institutional Fellowship support on the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program (NIH T32 GM067795), University of Iowa, 2013-2014
  • Placed second at the James F. Jakobsen Graduate Conference in the Biomedical & Health Sciences category for paper submissions, University of Iowa, 2013, 2015
  • Awarded Sloan Mini Grant, University of Iowa, 2014
  • Dean’s Fellowship, University of Iowa, 2012


  1. Kim YC, Han SW, Alberico SL, Ruggiero RN, De Corte B, Chen, KH and Narayanan NS.:  Optogenetic Stimulation of Frontal D1 Neurons Compensates for Impaired Temporal Control of Action in Dopamine-Depleted Mice. Current Biol 27(1):39-47, 2017.  PMCID: PMC5225083
  2. Alberico SL, Kim YC, Lence T and Narayanan NS.:  Axial levodopa-induced dyskinesias and neuronal activity in the dorsal striatum. Neuroscience 343:240-249, 2017.  PMCID: PMC5262537
  3. Parker KL, Kim Y, Alberico SL, Emmons EB and Narayanan NS.:  Optogenetic approaches to evaluate striatal function in animal models of Parkinson disease. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 18:99-107, 2016.  PMCID: PMC4826776
  4. Kim YC, Alberico S, Emmons E and Narayanan, N.:  New therapeutic strategies targeting D1-type dopamine receptors for neuropsychiatric disease. Frontiers in Biology, 10(3):230-238, 2015.  PMCID: PMC5340264
  5. Alberico SL, Cassell MD and Narayanan NS.:  The Vulnerable Ventral Tegmental Area in Parkinson's Disease. Basal Ganglia, 5(2-3):51-55, 2015.  PMCID: PMC4523275
  6. Parker KL*, Alberico SL*, Miller AD and Narayanan NS.:  Prefrontal D1 dopamine signaling is necessary for temporal expectation during reaction time performance. Neuroscience, 255:246-54, 2013.  *These authors contributed equally to this work.  PMCID: PMC3856920
  7. Wu X, Alberico S, Saidu E, Khan SR, Zheng S, Romero R, Chae HS, Li S, Mochizuki A, Anders J.:  Organic Light Emitting Diode Improves Diabetic Cutaneous Wound Healing in Rats. Wound Repair and Regeneration, 23 (1):104-114, 2015.  PMID: 25684653
  8. Anders JJ, Moges H, Moges Erbele ID, Alberico SL, Saidu EK, Smith JT, and Pryor BA.:  In vitro and in vivo optimization of infrared laser treatment for injured peripheral nerves. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, 46(1):34-45, 2014.  PMID: 24338500
  9. Wu X, Alberico SL, Moges H, De Taboada L, Tedford CE, Anders JJ.:  Pulsed light irradiation improves behavioral outcome in a rat model of chronic mild stress. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, 44 (3):227-232, 2012.  PMID: 22334326

Awards since graduating from the U of IA

  • Parkinson’s Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, Thalamic targets of the substantia nigra pars reticulata in modulation of Parkinson's disease and levodopa-induced dyskinesias, Columbia University Med Center, New York, NY, 2018-present