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Matthew Cooper

Matthew CooperMatthew Cooper
Ph.D. University of Georgia (1999)


Key words: Behavioral neuroscience, aggression, dominance relationships, social defeat, stress

Research Interests

Aggression, dominance relationships, social stress, coping, resilience

Research statement

My laboratory is focused on the social, neuroendocrine, and neurochemical mechanisms regulating social stress and dominant/subordinate relationships. We use models of acute social defeat in Syrian hamsters and mice to investigate mechanisms underlying stress-induced changes in behavior. Projects in the lab are intended to improve understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying stress-related psychopathologies. The lab employs a multidisciplinary approach and we use a variety of techniques including behavioral observation, stereotaxic surgery, microinfusion of pharmacological agents, hormone assays, immunohistochemistry, western blots, neuronal tract tracing, and qPCR.

Current and Future Directions

We have several ongoing research projects focused on the biological basis of susceptibility and resistance to stress. In one line of research we are studying whether changes in serotonin signaling within select brain regions, such as the amygdala, regulate the behavioral effects of social defeat in Syrian hamsters. Another line of research is focused on neurobiological mechanisms within the prefrontal cortex controlling resistance to the effects of social stress in dominant hamsters. We are also using mouse models to investigate whether brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the amygdala regulates the effects of social stress on anxiety and alcohol consumption

  • 2013 - Scholar of the Week from the Office of Research, University of Tennessee
  • 2012 - Interdepartmental Collaboration in Scholarship and Research Award, University of Tennessee
  • 2009 - Professional Development Award, University of Tennessee

Current Funding

  • NeuroNET Seed Grant
    Internal award from UTK NeuroNET Center
    "Developing a Hamster Model to Investigate the Neural Substrates of Social Play and Vulnerability to Future Social Stress"
    2013-2014; $23,037 direct costs; PI with co-PIs Gordon Burghardt and Brian O'Meara
  • Brain and Behavior Research Foundation
    NARSAD Young Investigator Award
    "Alcohol and BDNF modulation of stress-related memories"
    2013-2015; $60,000 direct costs; PI with consultant Rebecca Prosser
  • National Institutes of Health
    Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21)
    "Understanding neural circuits that control resistance to social stress."
    2012-2015; $200,000 direct costs; PI

Select Past Funding

  • National Institutes of Health
    Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21)
    "Neural mechanisms underlying stress-induced changes in behavior."
    2010-2012; $200,000 direct costs; PI
  • University of Tennessee
    Professional Development Award
    "Neural mechanisms of stress resistance."
    2009-2010; $5000 direct costs; PI
  • National Institutes of Health
    Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award
    "Mechanisms of stress-induced changes in behavior."
    2004-2006; $163,380 direct costs; Post-doctoral fellowship with mentor Kim Huhman

    National Science Foundation
    International Research Fellow Award
    "Inter-group competition and relationship quality in bonnet macaques."
    1999-2001; $11,396 direct costs; Post-doctoral fellowship with mentor Mewa Singh
  • National Geographic Society
    Committee for Research and Exploration
    "Social control of aggression in Assamese macaques"
    1997-1998; $11,925 direct costs; Co-investigator with Irwin Bernstein

Bader, L.R., Carboni, J.D., Burleson, C.A. and Cooper, M.A. (in press). 5-HT1A Receptor Activation Reduces Fear-related Behavior Following Social Defeat in Syrian Hamsters. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior.

Morrison, K.E., Bader, L.R., McLaughlin, C.N. and Cooper, M.A. (2013). Defeat-induced activation of the ventral medial prefrontal cortex is necessary for resistance to conditioned defeat. Behavioral Brain Research, 243: 158-164.

Hammack, S.E., Cooper, M.A. and Lezak, K.R. (2012). Overlapping neurobiology of learned helplessness and conditioned defeat: Implications for PTSD and mood disorders. Neuropharmacology 62: 565-575.

Harvey, M.L., Swallows, C.L. and Cooper, M.A. (2012). A double dissociation in the effects of 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors on the acquisition and expression of conditioned defeat in Syrian hamsters. Behavioral Neuroscience, 126: 530-537.

Morrison, K.E. and Cooper, M.A. (2012). A role for 5-HT1A receptors in the basolateral amygdala in the development of conditioned defeat in Syrian hamsters. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 100: 592-600.

Morrison, K.E., Curry, D.W. and Cooper, M.A. (2012). Social status alters defeat-induced neural activation in Syrian hamsters. Neuroscience 210: 168-178.

Day, D.E., Cooper, M.A., Markham, C.M. and Huhman, K.L. (2011). NR2B subunit of the NMDA receptor in the basolateral amygdala is necessary for the acquisition of conditioned defeat in Syrian hamsters. Behavioral Brain Research, 217:55-59.

Morrison, K.E., Swallows, C.L. and Cooper, M.A. (2011). Effects of dominance status on conditioned defeat and expression of 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors. Physiology and Behavior, 104:283-290.

Cooper, M.A. and Huhman, K.L. (2010). Blocking corticotropin-releasing factor-2 receptors, but not corticotropin-releasing factor-1 receptors or glucocorticoid feedback, disrupts the development of conditioned defeat. Physiology and Behavior, 101:527:532.

Cooper, M.A., Grober, M.S., Nicholas, C.R. and Huhman, K.L. (2009). Aggressive encounters alter the activation of serotonergic neurons and the expression of 5-HT1A mRNA in the hamster dorsal raphe nucleus. Neuroscience, 161:680-690.

Cooper, M.A. and Bernstein, I.S. (2008). Evaluating dominance styles in Assamese and rhesus macaques. International Journal of Primatology, 29:225-243.

Cooper, M.A., McIntyre, K.E. and Huhman, K.L. (2008). Activation of 5-HT1A autoreceptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus reduces the behavioral consequences of social defeat. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 33:1236-1247.

Cooper, M.A., Aureli, F. and Singh, M. (2007). Sex differences in reconciliation and post-conflict anxiety in bonnet macaques. Ethology, 113:26-38.

Cooper, M.A. and Huhman, K.L. (2007). Corticotropin-releasing factor receptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus modulate social behavior in Syrian hamsters. Psychopharmacology, 194:297-307.

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