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Anita Disney

Assistant Professor of Neurobiology
DUMC Box 3209, Durham, NC 27710
311 Research Drive, Durham, NC 27710


There are two broad branches of research in the Disney lab:

The primary goal of our Basic Research is to determine the role(s) that neuromodulators such as acetylcholine, noradrenaline, serotonin, and oxytocin play in specifying functional connectivity across the wired circuitry of the brain, and how this dynamic circuit specification supports flexible behavior in the healthy brain.

The core goal of our Disease-Focused Research is understanding the neurochemical changes that occur in the pre-clinical phase (i.e 20-30 years before symptom onset and diagnosis) of late-onset Alzheimer's Disease. Late onset AD accounts for >95% of the disease burden and is not genetically determined, which means it is not well-modeled by the transgenic mice commonly used in AD research and is less well-understood than familial AD.

We are a question-driven lab, and so the techniques we employ are diverse. Where the technique we need in order to answer our question doesn't exist, we work to develop it.

Our current tools include a novel biosensor that combines classical electrophysiological recording capabilities with the ability to measure the local chemical environment at high spatial and temporal resolution; we also combine electrophysiological recording with pharmacological manipulation to examine causal relationships between neuromodulation, neuronal activity and behavioral performance. Our current analysis methods include the tools of analytic chemistry, including mass spectrometry-based proteomics and metabolomics. Because we believe that structure constrains function, we anchor all of our research in a solid understanding of cortical anatomy. Where these data don't exist, we generate them which means we also study the anatomy of neuromodulatory systems in cortex from a comparative perspective at both the light and electron microscopic levels.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Assistant Professor of Neurobiology · 2019 - Present Neurobiology, Basic Science Departments
Member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience · 2018 - Present Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences · 2018 - Present Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, University Institutes and Centers

Education, Training & Certifications

New York University · 2005 Ph.D.