B.S. Zoology; Psychology Duke University 1982
Ph.D. Biological Psychology University of Georgia 1988
Kim Levy Huhman was born and raised in Atlanta just a few miles from Georgia State University. She graduated from The Westminster Schools in Atlanta and Duke University, where she double-majored in Zoology and Psychology. It was at Duke that Dr. Huhman realized that she was fascinated by the relationship of brain to behavior. She went on to the University of Georgia Biological Psychology program, where she received her Ph.D. in 1988 in the laboratory of Dr. Bradford N. Bunnell. After obtaining her degree, Dr. Huhman was a National Research Council Fellow at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in the Division of Behavioral Neuroendocrinology. She then came to Georgia State University in 1991 to do a second postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral neuroscience in the laboratory of Dr. Elliott Albers. She was funded during this time with a Ruth Kirschstein National Research Service Award. In 1995, Dr. Huhman received independent funding for her research from the National Institutes of Health, and she transitioned into a faculty position. She is currently a Professor in the Neuroscience Institute and also holds an appointment in the Department of Psychology. She is currently the Past-President for the Atlanta Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, and she has served on a variety of study sections to review grants for the National Institutes of Health including serving as a regular member of the NNRS (Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology and Rhythms) Study Section.
Social stress is arguably the predominant form of stress encountered by mammals, and in humans this type of stress contributes to a variety of diseases and psychopathologies (e.g., heart disease, depression, anxiety disorders). Many animal models of human stress-related disorders use stressors such as intermittent foot shock, which offer the benefit of being highly controllable, but these laboratory stressors may bear little resemblance to the challenges that are naturally encountered by humans or non-humans. Animal models that use a social context closer to that which individuals might experience in their natural environment are essential to a better understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying social behavior, in general, and experience-dependent behavioral plasticity (or change), in particular. The Huhman lab studies in Syrian hamsters a phenomenon called conditioned defeat, which is an ethologically relevant model of stress-induced behavioral plasticity wherein a single, brief exposure to a social stressor reliably induces profound and long-lasting changes in social behavior. An overarching goal in our lab is to identify the neural circuit mediating conditioned defeat. We have demonstrated, for example, that the amygdala is critical to the acquisition and expression of conditioned defeat in hamsters, but there is also evidence that other brain areas are involved in the production of this behavioral change. We are also working 1) to determine in what part(s) of this neural circuit the critical plasticity occurs to mediate conditioned defeat and 2) to describe the cellular and molecular changes that underlie social stress-induced changes in behavior. We maintain that studying models such as conditioned defeat will improve our understanding of stress-related psychopathologies in humans and will ultimately lead to the development of better treatment options for these disorders.
National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) and Georgia State University Brains and Behavior Program Seed Grant
Taylor, S. L.; Stanek, L. M.; Ressler, K. J.; Huhman, K. L. Differential brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression in limbic brain regions following social defeat or territorial aggression. Behavioral Neuroscience, 125, 911-920, 2011.
Markham, C. M.; Luckett, C. A.; Huhman, K. L. The medial prefrontal cortex is both necessary and sufficient for the acquisition of conditioned defeat. Neuropharmacology, 62, 933-939, 2012.
Luckett, C.; Norvelle, A.; Huhman, K. The role of the nucleus accumbens in the acquisition and expression of conditioned defeat. Behavioral Brain Research, 227, 208-214, 2012.
McCann, K. E.; Bicknese, C. N.; Norvelle, A.; Huhman, K. L. Effects of inescapable versus escapable social stress in Syrian hamsters: The importance of stress duration versus escapability. Physiology & Behavior, 129C, 25-29, 2014.
Song, Z.; McCann, K. E.; McNeill, J. K., IV; Larkin, T. E., II; Huhman, K. L.; Albers, H. E. Oxytocin induces social communication by activating arginine-vasopressin V1a receptors and not oxytocin receptors. Psychoneuroendocrinology, in press, 2014.