University of Nebraska Medical Center

Padmashri Ragunathan, PhD, Lab


Assistant Professor, Developmental Neuroscience

Padmashri Ragunathan, PhD
Research in my laboratory focuses on examining alcohol-induced alterations in synaptic structure and function, astrocyte signaling, behavior and auditory processing in a prenatal exposure model of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
Ongoing Projects

Effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on astrocyte signaling, structural synaptic plasticity and behavior
The most profound effects of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) are on the developing brain. Alterations in glial cell functions by alcohol can impair the development of proper brain architecture and connectivity. We use a model of maternal voluntary alcohol consumption throughout gestation in a mouse model to investigate the effects of developmental alcohol exposure on astrocyte signaling, synaptic structure and behavior. Our findings suggest that chronic exposure to alcohol during fetal development can result in persistent metabolic and behavioral alterations in offspring in a sex-specific manner. We are investigating whether developmental alcohol exposure results in dysfunctional Ca2+ signaling in astrocytes and changes in dendritic spine dynamics in vivo. 

Effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on auditory processing
Individuals with FASD have impaired auditory processing and frequently exhibit atypical auditory behaviors. We are currently investigating the effects of PAE on auditory processing by performing longitudinal auditory measurements throughout development and adulthood in male and female mice. Ongoing studies also focus on the effects of PAE on synaptic plasticity in the auditory cortex. Our goal is to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie auditory processing deficits in FASD.

Experimental Approaches Used in the Lab
  • Preparation of brain slices
  • Slice electrophysiology
  • Viral injections and cranial window implantation
  • Two-photon microscopy for slice imaging and in vivo imaging
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Auditory measurements including auditory brainstem response (ABR) and distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE)
  • Mouse behaviors


Lab Members

Michael Douchey

Research Technologist I