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Keywords: learning; memory; behavior; estrogen; progesterone; hormone; menopause; maze
The research goals of our laboratory are to characterize the cognitive and brain changes that occur during aging, as well as to develop behavioral and pharmacological strategies to attenuate mnemonic and neurobiological age-related alterations. Towards this goal, one of our primary interests is to determine the roles that sex, hormones, and brain chemistry play in brain function and cognition in young versus aged subjects. Our interests incorporate these goals with relevance to Alzheimer’s disease-related variables, and non-pharmacological approaches to protecting the brain and cognition against age- and neurodegenerative- related changes.
One of our main aims is to determine the effects that hormone therapies used in women have on the brain and its function across the lifespan. For example, we have been studying the effects of Premarin, estradiol, and progestins on cognition and neurobiology in different types of menopause. We are also evaluating hormones in contraceptives for effects on the brain and cognition across the lifespan. Findings demonstrate that estrogen and progesterone can have divergent effects on memory and neurobiology in aging females, and that effects of ovarian hormone loss and replacement are impacted by many parameters including menopause history, temporal specifics, and age.
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Your financial support may be considered a charitable contribution and all donations will be processed by the ASU Foundation for A New American University, a non-profit organization that exists to support Arizona State University (ASU). Your contribution to the Hormones, Menopause, and Memory Aging Lab and the Department of Psychology is greatly appreciated!
Bimonte-Nelson Lab Members
Dr. Bimonte-Nelson's undergraduate degree in Psychology was earned at Richard Stockton College, located near the beach in Pomona, NJ. To follow her interests in brain and behavior, she began her doctoral research under the mentorship of Dr. Victor Denenberg at the University of Connecticut where she focused upon sex differences in brain morphology and function, and how ovarian hormones affected the expression of sex differences in an activational and organizational fashion. The idea that gonadal hormones could have such a profound influence on the brain and behavior was intriguing to her and this area of work became her passion. After earning her PhD in 2000, she began a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Ann-Charlotte Granholm at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, and several months later, helped move the laboratory to the Medical University of South Carolina. In 2005, Dr. Bimonte-Nelson moved to ASU and founded the Bimonte-Nelson Memory and Aging Laboratory. When Dr. Bimonte-Nelson is not in the laboratory or teaching, she enjoys the beautiful Arizona atmosphere by spending time outdoors with husband, Matt, and their two teenage daughters. She also enjoys painting, music, concerts and writing short stories.
There are currently no Postdoctoral Fellows in the Bimonte-Nelson Lab.
Stephanie Koebele, Doctoral Student. I am currently a fifth year doctoral candidate in Dr. Bimonte-Nelson’s Memory and Aging Laboratory at ASU. My research focuses on the cognitive and neurobiological effects of ovarian hormone loss during the menopause transition, as well as following variations in surgical menopause. I was recently awarded a pre-doctoral National Research and Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institute on Aging to further pursue this line of research and complete my dissertation. I am also an ASU undergraduate alumna, double majoring in Psychology and Spanish, graduating with the Moeur Award. Contact: email@example.com.
Veronica Pena, Doctoral Student. I received my BA in Psychology with a concentration in Neuroscience from Carleton College in 2012, and graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a M.S. in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience in 2016. Currently, I am a graduate student in the Behavioral Neuroscience PhD program. My research focuses on how menopause and hormone therapy impact healthy aging as well as neurodegenerative disease, specifically Alzheimer's disease behavior and pathology.
Victoria Woner, Doctoral Student. I am currently a second-year doctoral student in Dr. Bimonte-Nelson’s Behavioral Neuroscience of Memory and Aging Laboratory. My research explores the effects that exogenous hormones have on neurobiological and cognitive functioning in aging women, and whether these hormones have the potential to protect against age- or disease- related cognitive decline. I am also an ASU undergraduate alumna, Class of 2017, with concurrent Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemistry and Psychology.
Steven Northrup-Smith: I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University with a double-major in Psychology and Biopsychology and a minor in Biology. I joined the Bimonte-Nelson lab in the fall of 2016 as Lab Manager. I am broadly interested in cognition and behavior, and their neural correlates. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Maria Valenzuela Sanchez: I graduated from Red Mountain High School in 2018 and am currently a freshman at ASU majoring in Biological Sciences. I started my time in the Bimonte-Nelson lab as an intern late into my Junior year of high school and have since then upgraded my status to undergraduate research assistant! During my time here I have gained valuable hands-on experience and an interest in cognition and memory.
Santiago Logan-Robledo: I was born in Mexico and raised in Chandler. I am currently a sophomore at Barrett the Honors College majoring in biomedical sciences and looking forward to attending medical school to pursue a career in orthopedic surgery. It is an honor an a pleasure to be a part of such an incredible team and diving into fascinating behavioral neuroscience research. I look forward to continuing to learn and conducting my own honors thesis research.
Raena Johnson: I am originally from Tucson, Arizona and am currently a sophomore double majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology (BS). I am interested in studying the brain specifically regarding the factors that can affect behavior, including the impact of hormones and cognition. I intend on using the experience and knowledge gained in the lab as a stepping-stool towards a career in Neuropsychology. I joined in November 2018 and am thrilled to be a member of the Bimonte-Nelson lab participating alongside great mentors in the study of brain research!
Alyssa Manzo: I am from Chandler, Arizona and I attended Chandler high school where I played basketball for all four years. My favorite NBA team is the Phoenix Suns even though they're not that good. Currently I am a sophomore majoring in psychology and neuroscience. Recently, I started a new club on campus called Swift Youth Club where you volunteer with underprivileged children at their school and really make an impact in their lives as mentors! I am a new undergraduate research assistant and so excited to be a part of the team.
Isabel Strouse: I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and am now a senior majoring in both Biological Sciences (BS) and Psychology (BS). My undergraduate career began at UCLA, but upon my transfer to ASU I had the fortunate opportunity to become involved with Dr. Bimonte-Nelson’s research laboratory. I am ecstatic to now be in my third year with the lab! My goal is to attend medical school and pursue a career in neurosurgery. I recently completed my undergraduate honors thesis with the Bimonte-Nelson team, which was focused on the cognitive effects of synthetic hormone administration as found in birth control. Through working in Dr. Bimonte-Nelson’s research laboratory and because of her mentorship, the research process has become a passion of mine. I look forward to highlighting its tremendous value during my career in the medical field.
Haidyn Bulen: I am currently a junior at ASU double majoring in psychology and neuroscience with a minor in Spanish. I started out in Dr. Bimonte-Nelson’s lab in September of 2016 and am now working toward completing my honors thesis. My research interests include understanding the timeline of pathological development and behavioral symptomology in Alzheimer’s Disease as well as delineating early, critical windows of opportunity to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s.
Kinza Ahmed: I am a junior at Barrett the Honors College at ASU double majoring in Biomedical Sciences and Psychology. I have been in the Bimonte-Nelson lab for 2 and a half years. During this time I’ve gained a lot of opportunities to expand my knowledge in behavioral neuroscience, including working on research projects and attending conferences. It’s been amazing working with this team and having such a great mentor!
Ally Schrier: I'm currently a junior majoring in Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Psychology. I joined the lab in January of 2018 and have loved being able to work alongside such passionate, hardworking scientists. I'm particularly interested in studying and understanding the brain, especially then it goes astray from normal functioning. After graduation, I plan on obtaining either an MD or PhD (not sure which one yet!) to continue to make a contribution to the scientific community and help as many people as I can. I am incredibly happy to be apart of the Bimonte-Nelson lab and can't wait to continue learning about the wonders of the brain.
Anika Porwal: I currently am a junior at Desert Vista High School. I am a part of our school's National Honors Society, and am an officer for our Speech and Debate Team as well as our HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) club. I started interning in the Bimonte-Nelson Lab in the beginning of 2018, and am excited to continue. I've been intent on pursuing medicine and medical research for quite a few years now, and am loving the research experience, knowledge, and opportunities available as part of this lab. The research conducted here is one that continues to enhance my knowledge about the overall anatomy and abilities of the brain as it ages, and furthers my passion for medicine.
Joshua Talboom (2011, PhD) - currently a Post-doc at Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGEN)
B. Blair Braden (2012, PhD) - currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at Arizona State University
Jazmin Acosta (2013, PhD & Post-doctoral fellow) - currently an Associate Medical Science Liaison, Medical Affairs at Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, Inc.
Elizabeth Engler-Chiurazzi (2013, PhD) - currently a Research Assistant Professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine
Sarah Mennenga (2015, PhD) – currently pursuing a Post-Doc at New York University
Mari Willeman (2018, Post-doctoral fellow) - currently faculty at Glendale community college
Alesia Prakapenka (2018, PhD) - currently pursuing a Post-doc at Syracuse University
LABORATORY MANAGER: Alicia Quihuis - Currently a graduate student at the University of Southern California.
Prospective graduate students must meet the minimum qualifications for admittance in the Department of Psychology Graduate Program. Qualities of successful students include the following traits: highly motivated, dependable, organized, meeting challenges, working well with others as well as independently. Highly desirable are those who have had experience working in an animal research facility in the past. However, successful students have joined Dr. Bimonte-Nelson's laboratory without this experience. Please contact Dr. Bimonte-Nelson if you have any questions. Dr. Bimonte- Nelson's contact information is at the bottom of this page and graduate student contact information is available on this page (above).
Dr. Bimonte-Nelson expects the same traits from her research technicians as she does for her graduate students (see above). Potential applicants must also be hard working and dependable with a BA or BS in psychology or biology. Animal handling experience is a plus as well as laboratory work, management and maintenance experience. Dr. Bimonte-Nelson asks that applicants be dedicated to this position for at least 4 years (the duration of a grant).
Undergraduate Research Volunteers
We are interested in accepting undergraduates into our laboratory team who have interests in studying the neurobiological and cognitive effects of hormones and aging. Students who are more likely to be considered are Psychology majors, focusing on pursuing a career in neural behavioral research. The majority of the work will involve behavioral testing on our various maze tasks. Other duties that will be required will involve assistance/participation in experimental procedures, surgeries, and laboratory data management.
Requirements for undergraduate researchers:
Note: Undergraduates work on a volunteer basis or through the Honors College; some are eligible to earn competitive funding through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences SOLUR program.
The list of publications below are just a sample of the work that's being done in our lab. For a complete list of Dr. Bimonte-Nelson's publications, please view her CV.
* denotes graduate student or postdoc in our lab
^ denotes undergraduate student in our lab
*Koebele S.V., *Mennenga S.E., *Hiroi R., ^Quihuis A.M., ^Hewitt L.T., ^Poisson M.L., George C., Mayer L.P., Dyer C.A., Aiken L.S., Demers L.M., ^Carson C., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2017) Cognitive changes across the menopause transition: A longitudinal evaluation of the impact of age and ovarian status on spatial memory. Hormones and Behavior, 87, 96-114. PMID: 27793768.
*Braden, B.B., Andrews, M.G., *Acosta, J.I., *Mennenga, S.E., Lavery, C., & Bimonte-Nelson, H.A. (2017). A comparison of progestins within three classes: differential effects on learning and memory in the aging surgically menopausal rat. Behavioral Brain Research, 322, 258-268.
*Koebele S.V., *Mennenga S.E., ^Patel, S., *Hiroi R., Hewitt, L.T., ^Quihuis A.M., Mayer L.P., Dyer C.A., Demers L.M., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2017). Menopause and the aging brain: Evaluating relationships between circulating ovarian hormone levels and choline acetyltransferase-containing neurons in the basal forebrain. Experimental Gerontology, 94, 111-112.
*Koebele, S.V. & Bimonte-Nelson, H.A. (2017). The endocrine-brain-aging triad where many paths meet: Female reproductive hormone changes at midlife and their influence on circuits important for learning and memory. Experimental Gerontology, 94, 14–23.
*Prakapenka, A.V., Bimonte-Nelson, H.A., & Sirianni, R. (2017). Engineering poly(lactic- co –glycolic acid) (PLGA) micro- and nano- carriers for controlled delivery of 17beta-estradiol. Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 45, 1697-1709.
*Koebele S.V., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2016) Modeling menopause: The utility of rodents in translational behavioral endocrinology research. Maturitas, 87, 5-17.
*Hiroi R., Carbone D.L., Zuloaga D.G., Bimonte-Nelson H.A., and Handa R.J. (2016) Sex-dependent programming effects of prenatal glucocorticoid treatment on the developing serotonin system and stress-related behaviors in adulthood. Neuroscience, 320, 43-56.
*Braden B.B., ^Andrews M.G., *Acosta JI, *Mennenga S.E., ^Lavery C., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2016) A comparison of progestins within three classes: Differential effects on learning and memory in the aging surgically menopausal rat. Behavioral Brain Research, 30, 258-268. PMID: 27368418.
*Braden B.B., Dassel KB, Bimonte-Nelson H.A., O'Rourke H.P., Connor D.J., Moorhous S., Sabbagh M.N., Caselli R.J., Baxter L.C. (2016) Sex and post-menopause hormone therapy effects on hippocampal volume and verbal memory. Neuropsychology, Development, and Cognition (Section B: Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition), 4, 1-20. PMID: 27263667.
*Hiroi R., ^Weyrich G., *Koebele S.V., *Mennenga S.E., *Talboom J.S., ^Hewitt L.T., ^Lavery C.N., ^Mendoza P., ^Jordan A., Bimonte-Nelson HA. (2016) Benefits of hormone therapy estrogens depend on estrogen type: 17β-estradiol and conjugated equine estrogens have differential effects on cognitive, anxiety-like, and depressive-like behaviors and increase tryptophan hydroxylase-2 mRNA levels in dorsal raphe nucleus subregions. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10, 510-517. PMID: 28008302.
*Koebele S.V., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2016) The endocrine-brain-aging triad where many paths meet: female reproductive hormone changes at midlife and their influence on circuits important for learning and memory. Experimental Gerontology, 94, 14-23. PMID: 27979770.
*Mennenga, S.E., ^Gerson J.E., Dunckley T., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2015) Harmine treatment enhances short-term memory in old rats: Dissociation of cognition and the ability to perform the procedural requirements of maze testing. Physiology & Behavior, 138, 260-265. PMID: 25250831.
*Braden B.B., ^Kingston M.L., Koenig E.N., ^Lavery C.N., ^Tsang C.W., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2015) The GABAA antagonist bicuculline attenuates progesterone-induced memory impairments in middle-aged ovariectomized rats. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 7:149. PubMed PMID: 26321945.
*Mennenga S.E., ^Gerson J.E., *Koebele S.V., ^Kingston M.L., ^Tsang C.W., *Engler-Chiurazzi E.B., Baxter L.C., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2015) Understanding the cognitive impact of the contraceptive estrogen Ethinyl Estradiol: tonic and cyclic administration impairs memory, and performance correlates with basal forebrain cholinergic system integrity. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 54:1-13. PubMed PMID: 25679306.
Prokai L., Nguyen V., Szarka S., Garg P., Sabnis G., Bimonte-Nelson H.A., McLaughlin K.J., *Talboom J.S., Conrad C.D., Shughrue P.J., Gould T.D., Brodie A., Merchenthaler I., Koulen P., Prokai-Tatrai K. (2015) The prodrug DHED selectively delivers 17β-estradiol to the brain for treating estrogen-responsive disorders. Science Translational Medicine. 7(297):113. PubMed PMID: 26203081.
Wallace E., Kim do Y., Kim K.M., Chen S., *Braden B.B., Williams J., Jasso K., ^Garcia A., Rho J.M., Bimonte-Nelson H., Maganti R. (2015) Differential effects of duration of sleep fragmentation on spatial learning and synaptic plasticity in pubertal mice. Brain Research. 1615:116-28. PubMed PMID: 25957790.
*Koebele S.V., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2015) Trajectories and phenotypes with estrogen exposures across the lifespan: What does Goldilocks have to do with it? Hormones and Behavior. 74:86-104. PubMed PMID: 26122297.
*Mennenga S.E., Baxter L.C., ^Grunfeld I.S., Brewer G.A., Aiken L.S., *Engler-Chiurazzi E.B., *Camp B.W., *Acosta J.I., *Braden B.B., ^Schaefer K.R., ^Gerson J.E., ^Lavery C.N., ^Tsang C.W., ^Hewitt L.T., ^Kingston M.L., *Koebele S.V., Patten K.J., Ball B.H., McBeath M.K. Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2014) Navigating to new frontiers in behavioral neuroscience: traditional neuropsychological tests predict human performance on a rodent-inspired radial-arm maze. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8. PMID: 25249951.
*Mennenga S.E., *Koebele S.V., ^Mousa A.A., ^Alderete T.J., ^Tsang C.W., *Acosta J.I., *Camp B.W., Demers L.M., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2014) Pharmacological blockade of the aromatase enzyme, but not the androgen receptor, reverses androstenedione-induced cognitive impairments in young surgically menopausal rats. Steroids. PMID: 25159107.
*Talboom J.S., West S.G., *Engler-Chiurazzi E.B., Enders C.K., ^Crain I., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2014) Learning to remember: cognitive training-induced attenuation of age-related memory decline depends on sex and cognitive demand, and can transfer to untrained cognitive domains. Neurobiology of Aging, 35(12), 2791-2802. PMID: 25104561.
*Acosta J., *Hiroi R., *Camp B., *Talboom J., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2013) An update on the cognitive impact of clinically-used hormone therapies in the female rat: models, mazes, and mechanisms, Brain Research, Special Issue on Window of Opportunity for Hormone Therapy, 1514: 18-39. PMID: 23333453.
*Mennenga S., Bimonte-Nelson H.A. (2013) Translational cognitive endocrinology: Designing rodent experiments with the goal to ultimately enhance cognitive health in women, Brain Research, Special Issue on Window of Opportunity for Hormone Therapy, 1514: 50-62. PMID: 23391594
Singh M., Simpkins J.W., Bimonte-Nelson H.A., Brinton R.D. (2013) Window of opportunity for estrogen and progestin intervention in brain aging and Alzheimer's disease. Brain Research, Special Issue on Window of Opportunity for Hormone Therapy, 1514:1-2. PMID: 25249951.
Rao V.R., Neogi U., *Talboom J.S., Padilla L., Rahman M., Fritz-French C., Gonzalez-Ramirez S., Verma A., Wood C., Ruprecht R.M., Ranga U., Azim T., Joska J., Eugenin E., Shet A., Bimonte-Nelson H.A., Tyor W.R., Prasad V.R. (2013) Clade C HIV-1 isolates circulating in Southern Africa exhibit a greater frequency of dicysteine motif-containing Tat variants than those in Southeast Asia and cause increased neurovirulence. Retrovirology, 10:61. PMID: 23758766.
Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F31 NRSA)
Arizona Alzheimer’s Disease Core Broadening Horizons Travel Award
Graduate and Professional Student Association Individual Travel Award
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduate Excellence Fellowship for First Generation Students
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduate Excellence Award
Graduate Education Travel Grant
Graduate and Professional Student Association Individual Travel Award
Graduate Student Scholarship to attend the Practical Workshop in Confocal Microscopy and Quantitative Histology
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduate Excellence Award
2017-2018 academic year
Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) award
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Diversity Supplement
About sixty 4th and 5th grade students and two teachers from Kyrene's Monte Vista elementary school participated in the 15 March 2016 Brain Fair organized by Dr. Sheri Hiroi with seven volunteer instructors from the lab who helped. For more pics and info about our Brain Fairs, click here! (posted 5/9/16).
Stephanie Koebele just won a competitive scholarship to attend the August 2016 Practical Workshop in Confocal Microscopy and Stereology in Chicago. The purpose of this intensive, week-long workshop is for researchers in biomedical science to learn new cell quantification microscopy techniques including a comprehensive overview in the theory and practice of modern histological preparation and microscopic analysis. Notes Dr. Bimonte-Nelson, “we’re so proud of Stephanie’s accomplishment in winning this award and look forward to her conducting her own workshop to teach us these new skills and techniques!” (posted 4/27/16).
Explore the new book which provides a laboratory roadmap for testing cognition in rodents, edited by Heather with stellar contributions from leaders in the field including personal accounts and scientific perspectives of their key discoveries: The Maze Book: Theories, Practice, and Protocols for Testing Rodent Cognition
Doctoral student and lab member Sarah Mennenga earned the Psychology Department scholar award and successfully defended her PhD in 2015. She recently started her Postdoctoral Fellowship at NYU.
Bimonte-Nelson Lab graduate student Alesia Prakapenka won an NSF award co-mentored by Dr. Heather Bimonte-Nelson and Dr. Rachael Sirianni at Barrow Neurological Institute, entitled "Development of targeted delivery of estrogen to examine its effect on cognitive function."
Bimonte-Nelson Lab, Washington DC, Society for Neuroscience 2014 (above)
Bimonte-Nelson Lab Dinner, Society for Neuroscience 2013 in San Diego (left).
Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Kandel visiting the lab at ASU in 2012.