The Harony-Nicolas Lab

Harony-Nicolas Lab

Research

Studies in our lab are focused on understanding the mechanisms by which autism-associated mutations lead to the manifestation of behavioral deficits. We specifically ask how these mutations affect brain networks that subserve social behavior and social reward processing, and how these changes lead to social behavior deficits. To address these scientific questions, our lab uses transgenic rat models that harbor mutations in autism-high risk genes, including in the Shank3gene, and applies behavioral and molecular neuroscience approaches. These include RNAscope, immunohistochemistry, and retro and anterograde labeling for anatomical analysis of specific brain circuits, fiber photometry approaches to record neural activity and/or assess neurotransmitter levels during social behavior, and cutting-edge chemo-genetic tools to manipulate specific neural circuits, all with the goal to uncover altered brain circuits that can be manipulated with circuit-specific non-invasive interventions to ameliorate social behavior deficits.

 

Our lab is part of the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The Seaver Autism Center is a fully integrated, translational research center that leads progressive studies and provides personalized care to individuals with autism and related rare disorders. As a team, we are dedicated to discovering the biological causes of autism and developing breakthrough treatments.

 

Learn more about the Seaver Autism Center’s translational research approach to study Shank3-deficeincies, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, and autism spectrum disorder. 

Contact Us

Harony-Nicolas Lab
Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Location
Lab: Annenberg 22-38 
Office: Annenberg 22-38A
Contact
Phone: 212.241.0343

Meet the Team

Hala Harony-Nicolas, PhD

Hala Harony-Nicolas, PhD

Principal Investigator

Keerthi Thirtamara Rajamani, PhD

Keerthi Thirtamara Rajamani, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Marie Barbier, PhD

Marie Barbier, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Amanda Leithead, MS

Amanda Leithead, MS

Graduate Student

Michelle Kim

Michelle Kim

Graduate Student

Kristi Niblo

Kristi Niblo

Associate Researcher

Nicholas Cordero

Nicholas Cordero

Undergraduate Student

Lab Alumni

Roberto Robles

Roberto Robles

Intern

Carla Golden

Carla Golden

Graduate Student

Natalie Burlant

Natalie Burlant

Associate Researcher

Lacin Koro

Lacin Koro

Associate Researcher

Camille Goldman

Camille Goldman

SURP Intern

Michael Peruggia

Michael Peruggia

Associate Researcher

Publications

2022

Reconsidering animal models used to study autism spectrum disorder: Current state and optimizing future.

Silverman JL, Thurm A, Ethridge SB, Soller MM, Petkova SP, Abel T, Bauman MD, Brodkin ES, Harony-Nicolas H, Wöhr M, Halladay A. Genes Brain Behav. 2022 Mar 14;e12803. doi: 10.1111/gbb.12803

2021

Efficiency of cell-type specific and generic promoters in transducing oxytocin neurons and monitoring their neural activity during lactation.

Thirtamara Rajamani K, Leithead AB, Kim M, Barbier M, Peruggia M, Niblo K, Barteczko L, Lefevre A, Grinevich V, Harony-Nicolas H. Sci Rep. 2021 Nov 18;11(1):22541. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-01818-x.


The interplay between glutamatergic circuits and oxytocin neurons in the hypothalamus and its relevance to neurodevelopmental disorders.

Leithead AB, Tasker JG, Harony-Nicolas H. J Neuroendocrinol. 2021 Nov 4:e13061. doi: 10.1111/jne.13061.


A randomized control trial of intranasal oxytocin in Phelan-McDermid Syndrome.

Fastman J, Foss-Feig J, Frank Y, Halpern D, Harony-Nicolas H, Layton C, Sandin S, Siper P, Tang L, Trelles P, Zweifach J, Buxbaum JD, Kolevzon A. Mol Autism. 2021 Sep 30;12(1):62. doi: 10.1186/s13229-021-00459-1.


Reduced brain volume and white matter alterations in Shank3-deficient rats.

Golden CEM, Wang VX, Harony-Nicolas H, Hof PR, Buxbaum JD. Autism Res. 2021 Sep; 14(9):1837-1842. doi: 10.1002/aur.2568.

2020

Altered synaptic ultrastructure in the prefrontal cortex of Shank3-deficient rats.

Jacot-Descombes S, Keshav NU, Dickstein DL, Wicinski B, Janssen WGM, Hiester LL, Sarfo EK, Warda T, Fam MM, Harony-Nicolas H, Buxbaum JD, Hof PR, Varghese M. Mol Autism. 2020 Nov 17;11(1):89. doi: 10.1186/s13229-020-00393-8.


Reduced axonal caliber and structural changes in a rat model of Fragile X syndrome with a deletion of a K-Homology domain of Fmr1.

Golden CEM, Yee Y, Wang VX, Harony-Nicolas H, Hof PR, Lerch JP, Buxbaum JD. Transl. Psychiatry 2020 Aug; 10(1):280. doi: 10.1038/s41398-020-00943-x.


Wireless Optogenetic Stimulation of Oxytocin Neurons in a Semi-natural Setup Dynamically Elevates Both Pro-social and Agonistic Behaviors.

Anpilov S, Shemesh Y, Eren N, Harony-Nicolas H, Benjamin A, Dine J, Oliveira VEM, Forkosh O, Karamihalev S, Hüttl R, Feldman N, Berger R, Dagan A, Chen G, Neumann ID, Wagner S, Yizhar O, Chen A. Neuron 2020 Aug; 10(1):280. doi: 10.1038/s41398-020-00943-x.

2019

Deletion of the KH1 Domain of Fmr1 Leads to Transcriptional Alterations and Attentional Deficits in Rats.

Golden CEM, Breen MS, Koro L, Sonar S, Niblo K, Browne A, Burlant N, Di Marino D, De Rubeis S, Baxter MG, Buxbaum JD, Harony-Nicolas H. Cerebral Cortex, Volume 29, Issue 5, 2019 May, Pages 2228–2244. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhz029.

2018

Oxytocin as a Modulator of Synaptic Plasticity: Implications for Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Rajamani KT, Wagner S, Grinevich V, Harony-Nicolas H. Frontiers in Synaptic Neurosci. 2018 Jun; 19. doi: 10.3389/fnsyn.2018.00017.


Developmental social communication deficits in the Shank3 rat model of phelan-mcdermid syndrome and autism spectrum disorder.

Berg EL, Copping NA, Rivera JK, Pride MC, Careaga M, Bauman MD, Berman RF, Lein PJ, Harony-Nicolas H, Buxbaum JD, Ellegood J, Lerch JP, Wöhr M, Silverman JL. Autism Res. 2018 Apr; 11(4):587-601. doi: 10.1002/aur.1925.


Shank3-deficient rats exhibit degraded cortical responses to sound.

Engineer CT, Rahebi KC, Borland MS, Buell EP, Im KW, Wilson LG, Sharma P, Vanneste S, Harony-Nicolas H, Buxbaum JD, Kilgard MP. Autism Res. 2018 Jan;11(1):59-68. doi: 10.1002/aur.1883.


Oxytocin and Animal Models for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Wagner S, Harony-Nicolas H. Behavioral Pharmacology of Neuropeptides: Oxytocin.Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2018;35:213-237. doi: 10.1007/7854_2017_15.

2017

Autism spectrum disorder: neuropathology and animal models.

Varghese M, Keshav N, Jacot-Descombes S, Warda T, Wicinski B, Dickstein DL, Harony-Nicolas H, De Rubeis S, Drapeau E, Buxbaum JD, Hof PR. Acta Neuropathol. 2017 Oct;134(4):537-566. doi: 10.1007/s00401-017-1736-4. 


Oxytocin improves behavioral and electrophysiological deficits in a novel Shank3-deficient rat.

Harony-Nicolas H, Kay M, Hoffmann JD, Klein ME, Bozdagi-Gunal O, Riad M, Daskalakis NP, Sonar S, Castillo PE, Hof PR, Shapiro ML, Baxter MG, Wagner S, Buxbaum JD. eLife 2017 Jan; 6. doi: 10.7554/eLife.18904.

2016

Cyfip1 Regulates Presynaptic Activity during Development.

Hsiao K, Harony-Nicolas H, Buxbaum JD, Bozdagi-Gunal O, Benson DL.The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 2016 Feb; 3. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0511-15.2016.

2015
Phelan McDermid Syndrome: From Genetic Discoveries to Animal Models and Treatment.

Harony-Nicolas H, De Rubeis S, Kolevzon A, Buxbaum JD. Journal of child neurology 2015 Dec; 30(14). doi: 10.1177/0883073815600872.


Ultrastructural analyses in the hippocampus CA1 field in Shank3-deficient mice.

Uppal N, Puri R, Yuk F, Janssen WG, Bozdagi-Gunal O, Harony-Nicolas H, Dickstein DL, Buxbaum JD, Hof PR. Molecular autism 2015; 6. doi: 10.1186/s13229-015-0036-x.

2014 & Earlier
Brain region-specific methylation in the promoter of the murine oxytocin receptor gene is involved in its expression regulation.

Harony-Nicolas H, Mamrut S, Brodsky L, Shahar-Gold H, Barki-Harrington L, Wagner S. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2014 Jan; 39. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.10.004.


Identification of small exonic CNV from whole-exome sequence data and application to autism spectrum disorder.

Poultney CS, Goldberg AP, Drapeau E, Kou Y, Harony-Nicolas H, Kajiwara Y, De Rubeis S, Durand S, Stevens C, Rehnström K, Palotie A, Daly MJ, Ma’ayan A, Fromer M, Buxbaum JD. American journal of human genetics 2013 Oct; 93(4). doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2013.09.001.


DNA methylation of specific CpG sites in the promoter region regulates the transcription of the mouse oxytocin receptor.

Mamrut S, Harony H, Sood R, Shahar-Gold H, Gainer H, Shi YJ, Barki-Harrington L, Wagner S. PloS one 2013; 8(2). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056869.


The contribution of oxytocin and vasopressin to mammalian social behavior: potential role in autism spectrum disorder.

Harony H, Wagner S. Neuro-Signals 2010; 18(2). doi: 10.1159/000321035.


What do unicellular organisms teach us about DNA methylation?

Harony H, Ankri S. Trends in parasitology 2008 May; 24(5). doi: 10.1016/j.pt.2008.02.002.


Sensing DNA methylation in the protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica.

Lavi T, Isakov E, Harony H, Fisher O, Siman-Tov R, Ankri S. Molecular microbiology 2006 Dec; 62(5).


DNA methylation and targeting of LINE retrotransposons in Entamoeba histolytica and Entamoeba invadens.

Harony H, Bernes S, Siman-Tov R, Ankri S. Molecular and biochemical parasitology 2006 May; 147(1).

Funding

Join the Team

Our lab is always looking for highly motivated scientists with a considerable background in molecular and behavioral neuroscience.

If you are interested in joining the lab as a postdoctoral fellow or graduate student, please send a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of three references who could provide letters of recommendation to Dr. Hala Harony-Nicolas at:  hala.harony-nicolas@mssm.edu.

Volunteers with some background in neuroscience and biology and with passion and motivation for science are always welcome. If interested, please send your resume to Dr. Hala Harony-Nicolas at: hala.harony-nicolas@mssm.edu.