Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Associate Professor in Neurobiology, without tenure
Associate Professor in Neurosurgery
Investigator in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
We study how neuropsychiatric risk genes interact with environmental stress to modify neural circuits that underlie normal emotional and cognitive function. We use in vivo electrophysiology, cell type specific neuromodulatory techniques (optogenetics and DREADDs), and quantitative analysis of behavior in genetically modified mice.
The focus of our research is to determine how genetic variants interact with environmental factors (including stress and drugs of abuse) to lead to mental illness. We accomplish this by implanting multiple small electrodes directly into the brains of mice that express genes which lead to mental illness in humans. We then monitor the activity of many brain cells simultaneously as these mice perform various behavioral tasks. We also record brain activity in mice exposed to various environmental stresses, and drugs of abuse. It is our hope that these experiments will one day lead to the discovery of new treatments for our patients with mental illness.
- Genetic changes in circadian genes increase risk for Bipolar disorder
- Mice with mutations in the circadian gene CLOCK (Clock mutants) exhibit behaviors similar to mania in humans
- Brain networks that control fear and reward processing having dysfunction timing the clock mutant mice.
- Treatment with lithium (a medication used to treat bipolar disorder in humans) repairs normal timing in the reward network of Clock mice, and makes them behave normally
- Learn more about bipolar disorder
Mague, Stephen D., Austin Talbot, Cameron Blount, Kathryn K. Walder-Christensen, Lara J. Duffney, Elise Adamson, Alexandra L. Bey, et al. “Brain-wide electrical dynamics encode individual appetitive social behavior.” Neuron, March 14, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2022.02.016.
Jaaro-Peled, Hanna, Sunil Kumar, Dalton Hughes, Akiko Sumitomo, Sun-Hong Kim, Sandra Zoubovsky, Yuki Hirota-Tsuyada, et al. “Regulation of sensorimotor gating via Disc1/Huntingtin-mediated Bdnf transport in the cortico-striatal circuit.” Mol Psychiatry 27, no. 3 (March 2022): 1805–15. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-021-01389-3.
Liston, Conor, Angela Roberts, Kafui Dzirasa, Dan Geschwind, Susanne E. Ahmari, and Christian Lüscher. “Understanding the biological basis of psychiatric disease: What's next?” Cell 185, no. 1 (January 6, 2022): 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.12.010.
Tilghman, Shirley, Bruce Alberts, Daniel Colón-Ramos, Kafui Dzirasa, Judith Kimble, and Harold Varmus. “Concrete steps to diversify the scientific workforce.” Science 372, no. 6538 (April 9, 2021): 133–35. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abf9679.
Dzirasa, Kafui. “Revising the a Priori Hypothesis: Systemic Racism Has Penetrated Scientific Funding.” Cell 183, no. 3 (October 29, 2020): 576–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.09.026.
Weinberger, Daniel R., Kafui Dzirasa, and Lesia L. Crumpton-Young. “Missing in Action: African Ancestry Brain Research.” Neuron 107, no. 3 (August 5, 2020): 407–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2020.07.008.
Dzirasa, Kafui. “For Black Scientists, the Sorrow Is Also Personal.” Cell 182, no. 2 (July 23, 2020): 263–64. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.06.028.
Hish, A. J., G. A. Nagy, C. M. Fang, L. Kelley, C. V. Nicchitta, K. Dzirasa, and M. Zachary Rosenthal. “Acceptability and perceived effectiveness of approaches to support biomedical doctoral student wellness: One size doesn⇔t fit all.” International Journal of Doctoral Studies 15 (January 1, 2020): 653–84. https://doi.org/10.28945/4669.
Grossman, Yael, and Kafui Dzirasa. “Is depression a disorder of electrical brain networks?” Neuropsychopharmacology 45, no. 1 (January 2020): 230–31. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-019-0511-8.
Hish, Alexander J., Gabriela A. Nagy, Caitlin M. Fang, Lisalynn Kelley, Christopher V. Nicchitta, Kafui Dzirasa, and M Zachary Rosenthal. “Applying the Stress Process Model to Stress-Burnout and Stress-Depression Relationships in Biomedical Doctoral Students: A Cross-Sectional Pilot Study.” Cbe Life Sci Educ 18, no. 4 (December 2019): ar51. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.19-03-0060.
Athy has expertise in varied research laboratory techniques and in lab management. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biology at East Carolina University and her Masters Degree in Marine Biology at UNC-Wilmington.
Associated Faculty Labs
Contact Dzirasa Lab
Kafui Dzirasa, MD PhD
Assistant Professor and Resident Physician
Laboratory for Psychiatric Neuroengineering, Principal Investigator
Affective Cognitive and Addiction Disorders (ACAD) Research Group
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Center for Neuroengineering
Duke University Medical Center
Mailing / Shipping Address:
Duke University Medical Center
Bryan Research Building Room 361
311 Research Drive, Box 3209
Durham, NC 27710