Lab Members

Martin Sarter, Ph.D.  Martin came to the University of Michigan in 2004 where he serves as the Charles M. Butter Collegiate Professor of Psychology and as a Professor of Neuroscience. He is a Fellow of AAAS, APA, and APS and a member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP). He served on a number of NIH grant review panels and was the co-editor in chief of the European Journal of Neuroscience (2008-2014).  Curriculum vitae.

Aaron newAaron Kucinski, Ph.D.  Aaron Kucinski is a Postdoctoral Fellow.  He is from Buffalo, New York.  Aaron received his Ph.D. in Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2011.  In graduate school, Aaron studied abnormal dopamine signaling systems in transgenic mice under the mentorship of Dr. Michal Stachowiak.  In addition, he conducted pharmacological research on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and investigated therapeutic effects of novel nicotinic receptor agonists in schizophrenia and Parkinson’s Disease models.  Aaron went to undergraduate school at SUNY Geneseo where he majored in Psychology and minored in Mathematics.  In the Sarter lab, Aaron has investigated cortical-striatal cognitive-motor interactions in multi-system rat model of Parkinson’s Disease and researched how impaired top-down cognitive control of damaged striatal systems causes falls and other complex movement impairments.  His goal is to determine pharmacological approaches to enhance cognitive control over movement and thus prevent falls.  Aaron is also researching task switching in animals with cognitive control deficits and low performance-induced cortical acetylcholine release.  Aaron’s general interests are in systems neuroscience and behavioral pharmacology.

Kyle Pichters, Ph.D.  Dr. Kyle PitKyle pic - Sarter websitechers is a postdoctoral fellow in the Biopsychology area of Psychology Dpartment at the University of Michigan. Kyle was born and raised in eastern Ontario, Canada. He received a Bachelor of Science Honor’s undergraduate degree from Queens University and his Ph.D. in Anatomy & Cell Biology (Neurobiology) from the University of Western Ontario (Advisor: Dr. Lique Coolen). His graduate research resulted in everal research papers in journals including the Journal of Neuroscience and Biological Psychiatry.  His Ph.D. research and  associated teaching culminated in being awarded the Keith L. Moore Doctoral Award in Anatomy & Cell Biology which recognizes special merit and achievement in advanced study and research  and the Drs. Madge and Charles Macklin Fellowship for  achievement in teaching and research. In August 2012, Kyle started his postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan in the labs of Drs. Martin Sarter and Terry Robinson. Currently, he is funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Postdoctoral Fellowship. His current research investigates the link between motivational and cognitive control systems that are relevant for addiction. Specifically, whether poor cognitive control and attention bias towards drug cues are expressed by individuals vulnerable to the development, maintenance and relapse phases of addiction. Kyle employs electrochemical recordings to monitor neurochemical changes and optogenetics to manipulate attention and motivation circuits in task-performing animals to determine neurobiological mechanisms underlying variation in attentional processing of drug cues and how these drug cues exert such a powerful effect over behavior.

AjeeshAjeesh Koshy Cherian, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Associate & Radiation Safety Officer. Ajeesh Koshy Cherian is a postdoctoral fellow in the Biopsychology Program at the University of Michigan. Ajeesh received his Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Sciences from Kerala Agricultural University, India. He earned his PhD in Pharmacology from University of Louisiana at Monroe under the mentorship of Dr. Karen Briski. During his graduate program, he studied the gender differences in the adaptation of metabolically sensitive noradrenergic neurons to acute and chronic hypoglycemia. In the Sarter lab, his research primarily focuses on how genetic variations of the high affinity choline transporter (CHT) modulate cholinergic neurotransmission and sustained attentional performance. Ajeesh also studies the cellular and behavioral consequences of repeated mild traumatic brain injury in CHT heterozygous and over-expressing mice. He is also involved in developing an opportunity cost paradigm to better understand how cholinergic capacity modulates behaviors such as voluntary task-switching. His goal is to identify novel biomarker and therapeutic targets in the cortical cholinergic system to improve cognitive symptoms in major neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders including schizophrenia and ADHD.

2015-10-08 16.20.12Youngsoo Kim, Ph.D. Assistant Research Scientist.  Youngsoo received a B.S. in Biology at Konkuk University (South Korea). He then came to the U.S. to study neuroendocrine systems on learning and memory, receiving an M.S. from Texas Tech University. As a graduate student in Dr. Fred Turek’s lab at Northwestern University, Youngsoo studied the neurophysiology of sleep and circadian rhythm. For his postdoctoral training, Youngsoo joined the laboratory of Dr. Robert McCarley at Harvard Medical School. There he studied the neurochemical mechanisms mediating altered homeostatic sleep responses to chronic sleep restriction, with a particular focus on adenosinergic and adrenergic systems in the basal forebrain and cerebral cortex. In 2014, Youngsoo joined the Sarter Lab with the goal of applying his expertise in neurochemistry to study brain mechanisms of attention. Since his arrival in the lab, Youngsoo has become the lab’s leader in conducting neurochemical analyses using in vivo microdialysis coupled to liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. His research focuses on determining neurochemical mechanisms underlying individual differences in vulnerability to drug addiction. Moreover, he collaborates with trainees in the Sarter Lab and other labs on projects concerning the neurochemistry of various disease models. Youngsoo’s ultimate goal is to understand the brain mechanisms underlying fundamental cognitive functions and to employ his insights to develop novel therapeutic strategies for treating cognitive disorders.

KyraKyra Phillips, B.A., (Graduate Student, Biopsychology). Kyra graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA with a degree in Psychology with minors in Cognitive Science and French. She began her foray into behavioral neuroscience as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. J. David Jentsch’s lab researching the effects of drug self-administration on inhibitory control, in particular in relation to the D2-family of dopamine receptors, culminating in a senior honors thesis. Kyra joined the Sarter lab as a graduate student in the biopsychology area of the psychology department in the summer of 2013. Her general research interests are the neural substrates and circuitry of cue detection; she is currently employing cholinergic lesions and optogenetics in order to investigate the basal forebrain cholinergic system.



Cassandra Avila, B.S. Cassandra graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a degree in Biology and Psychology minor. She began research during her high school career under several internships, MSEIP and SSEP. Then transitioned into the Behavioral and Neural Plasticity Laboratory as an undergraduate research assistant, and later as a RISE scholar, under Dr. Edward Castañeda, investigating the role of endogenous dopamine release within the basal ganglia circuity in movement and cognition. Cassandra investigates the cortico-striatal transfer of movement cues, by recording glutamate signaling in rodents trained to utilize cues for altering balance and movement. Such signaling is hypothesized to be attenuated in Parkinsonian fallers, secondarily to their losses in cholinergic systems.


Undergraduate Research Assistants: Alisha Bultsma; Anna Kittendorf; Anna Kelman; Antonia Vrana; Dena Ballouz; Emma Creamer; Katherine Boyer; Lindsay Fleischer; Lisa Waldman; Lousia Kane; Michaela Milillo; Olivia Preissle; Ryan Wu; Samantha Lincoln; Sarika Gurnani; Sydney Farrington; Tanisha Mitra

Previous Lab Members

Anne S. Berry, Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Christopher Caleb (CC) Angelakos, B.A., University of Pennsylvania

H. Moore Arnold, Ph.D., Biogen Idec, Cambridge, MA

Anne Marie Brady (prev. Himmelheber), Ph.D., St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Holden Brown, Ph.D., Brains On-Line LLC

Josh Burk Ph.D., College of William and Mary

Elise Demeter, Ph.D., University of North Carolina

Paul Dudchenko, Ph.D., University of Edinburgh and University of Stirling

Jim Fadel, Ph.D., USC School of Medicine

Howard Gritton, Ph.D., Boston University

William Matthew Howe, Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NY

Rouba Kozak, Ph.D., Pfizer, CNS Pharmacology

Caitlin Mallory, Stanford University, Neuroscience Program

Vicente Martinez, Ph.,D., University of Washington

Matthew S. Matell, Ph.D., Villanova University

Jill McGaughy, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire

Lee Ann Holley Couts, Ph.D., Mount Vernon Nazarene University (Mount Vernon, OH)

Holley Moore, Ph.D., Columbia University

Chris Nelson, Ph.D., Cleveland Clinic, Lerner Research Institute

Giovanna Paolone, Ph.D., University of Ferrera, Italy

Vinay Parikh, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia

Megan St. Peters, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Ferrum College, Ferrum, VA

Carillon (Cari) Skrzynski, B.A., Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University

Janita Turchi, Ph.D., NIMH, Lab of Neuropsychology