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Catherine Woolley

William Deering Professor

PhD, The Rockefeller University


Regions(s): Systems Neuroscience; Brain and Behavior; Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Research interest(s): Neuroendocrinology; Structural and functional plasticity of neural circuits; Epilepsy; Anxiety and Depression

Research Summary

Our research focuses on steroid regulation of synaptic structure and function and the consequences of steroid-driven synaptic modulation for behavior.  Most of our work is on the hippocampus, a brain region important in learning and memory, epilepsy, and in affective behaviors like anxiety and depression.  We use a range of approaches in our studies including molecular biology, biochemistry, light and electron microscopy, in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology, microdialysis, and behavioral assays. 

Two ideas driving current work in the lab are: 1) that estrogens are produced not only in periphery as hormones but also directly within the brain as neurosteroids that rapidly modulate synaptic function and behavior, and 2) that some mechanisms of synaptic modulation in non-reproductive parts of the brain differ between the sexes, which is important for understanding how experience or interventions, such as drugs, affect males and females differently.

Selected Publications

Selected Honors/Awards

  • 2021 Elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
  • 2019 Elected to National Academy of Medicine
  • 2019  Gill Center Transformative Research Award, Indiana University
  • 2018  McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence, Northwestern University
  • 2016  Transformative Research Award, National Institutes of Health
  • 2014-18  Councilor, Society for Neuroscience
  • 2013  William Deering Chair in Biological Sciences, Northwestern University
  • 2011  Special Lecture, Society for Neuroscience
  • 2007-09  Pioneer Award, Northwestern University Women’s Health Research Institute
  • 2007  C.J. Herrick Award, American Association of Anatomists
  • 2004-05  Faculty Honor Roll, Associated Student Government
  • 2003  Distinguished Teaching Award, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences
  • 2002-07  Distinguished Young Scholar in Medical Research Award, W.M. Keck Foundation
  • 2000  Cortical Explorer Prize, Cajal Club
  • 1998-99  Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship


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