Welcome to the Gourley Lab! Thank you for your interest in our work.

Dr. Gourley's lab focuses on prefrontal cortical function, particularly in the context of reward-related decision-making. We aim to understand neurobiological mechanisms and how decision-making behaviors can be impacted in depression and addiction.

Several investigations also concern adolescent development. For instance, our team aims to understand why adolescent-emergent depression is associated with insensitivity to traditional antidepressants, and why exposure to drugs of abuse during adolescence is associated with drug abuse and dependence that persist across the lifespan. We hypothesize that these adverse outcomes may relate to the manner in which pathological stimuli, such as stressors, social isolation and drugs of abuse, impact the adolescent prefrontal cortex. Across mammalian species, this brain region organizes complex decision-making, reward valuation and inhibitory control, and it also undergoes considerable remodeling and development during adolescence.

Our team uses behavioral, pharmacological, biochemical, genetic and cellular approaches to develop and optimize novel therapeutic interventions for vulnerable adolescent populations. Conversely, our research team also aims to better understand the neurobiological mechanisms of resilience to stressors and drugs of abuse at any age. New lines of research concern how social interactions influence reward-related decision-making.

Research Partners

Department of Pediatrics

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Emory National Primate Research Center

Emory Laney Graduate School

Marcus Autism Center

Emory Integrated Core Facilities (EICF)

Office of Postdoctoral Education​

This lab is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Lab members foster environments that are welcoming of all community members, regardless of position. We strive to create a culture defined by respect and collegiality. Diversity across multiple axes is valued and celebrated. These axes include (but are not limited to): cultural, ethnic, and racial identities; sexual orientation; gender identity; disability; age; religion; neurodiversity; veteran’s status; and others. We aim to combat bias and effect positive change. We condemn racism and other forms of intolerance.



Sumeet Sharma, MD, PhD

Dept of Psychiatry Research Resident



Laura M Butkovich, PhD

Research Technical Specialist


Aylet Allen

Lab Manager


Alexa Leahy

Junior Technician



Michelle K. Sequeira, PhD


Trevor Towner, PhD



Lisette Bahena

PhD Student




Janhavi Bhalerao

PhD Student



Karinne Cobb

PhD Student




Yesenia Garcia

PhD Student



Viviana Valentín

PhD Student



Aryanna Wiggins-Gamble

PhD Student



Sophie Yount

PhD Student

Molecular and Systems Pharmacology




Katie Stachowicz

Aditi Mahendran




Elizabeth C. Heaton, PhD

Britton Barbee, PhD

Ellen Woon, PhD

Dan Li, PhD

Rachel Davies, PhD

Henry Kietzman, PhD

Zibby Hinton, PhD

Alonzo Whyte, PhD

Elizabeth Barfield, PhD

Jeffery Hsu, PhD

Lauren Shapiro, PhD

Elizabeth Pitts, PhD

Andrew Swanson, PhD

Lauren Depoy, PhD

Kelsey Zimmermann, PhD

Marina Wheeler, PhD

Ryan Parsons, PhD

Anwesha Banerjee, PhD

Esther Seo

Wendy Wang

Chloe Gilkesson

Gracy Trinoskey-Rice

Niharika Dighe

Ari Peluso

Preethi Dharmavarapu

Apoorva Gangavelli

Ben Noble

Courtni Andrews

Hayley Arrowood

John Yamin

Michael Bower

Yong Yang

Weibo Fu

Kelly Vogel

Aaron Wang

For an up-to-date listing of our publications, please visit:


Google Scholar

See our new work in Biological Psychiatry:

The PI3-Kinase p110β Isoform Controls Severity of Cocaine-Induced Sequelae and Alters the Striatal Transcriptome

See our recent investigation of the effects of corticosterone on prefrontal cortical neurons

Morphological Responses of Excitatory Prelimbic and Orbitofrontal Cortical Neurons to Excess Corticosterone in Adolescence and Acute Stress in Adulthood.

Barfield ET, Sequeira MK, Parsons RG, Gourley SL.
Frontiers in Neuroanatomy. 2020;14:45. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2020.00045.

Bidirectional coordination of actions and habits by TrkB in mice.

Pitts EG, Li DC, Gourley SL.
Sci Rep. 2018 Mar 14;8(1):4495. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-22560-x.

Adolescent Corticosterone and TrkB Pharmaco-Manipulations Sex-Dependently Impact Instrumental Reversal Learning Later in Life.

Barfield ET, Gourley SL.
Front Behav Neurosci. 2017 Dec 7;11:237. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00237. eCollection 2017.

Inhibiting Rho kinase promotes goal-directed decision making and blocks habitual responding for cocaine.

Swanson AM, DePoy LM, Gourley SL.
Nat Commun. 2017 Nov 30;8(1):1861. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01915-4.

Regulation of actions and habits by ventral hippocampal trkB and adolescent corticosteroid exposure.

Barfield ET, Gerber KJ, Zimmermann KS, Ressler KJ, Parsons RG, Gourley SL.
PLoS Biol. 2017 Nov 29;15(11):e2003000. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2003000. eCollection 2017 Nov,

Corticosteroid-induced dendrite loss and behavioral deficiencies can be blocked by activation of Abl2/Arg kinase.

Shapiro LP, Omar MH, Koleske AJ, Gourley SL.
Mol Cell Neurosci. 2017 Dec;85:226-234. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2017.10.007. Epub 2017 Oct 26.

Memory Retention Involves the Ventrolateral Orbitofrontal Cortex: Comparison with the Basolateral Amygdala.

Zimmermann KS, Li CC, Rainnie DG, Ressler KJ, Gourley SL.
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018 Jan;43(2):373-383. doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.139. Epub 2017 Jun 30.

Successful pharmacotherapy for the treatment of severe feeding aversion with mechanistic insights from cross-species neuronal remodeling.

Sharp WG, Allen AG, Stubbs KH, Criado KK, Sanders R, McCracken CE, Parsons RG, Scahill L, Gourley SL.
Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Jun 20;7(6):e1157. doi: 10.1038/tp.2017.126.

Induction and Blockade of Adolescent Cocaine-Induced Habits.

DePoy LM, Zimmermann KS, Marvar PJ, Gourley SL.
Biol Psychiatry. 2017 Apr 1;81(7):595-605. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.09.023. Epub 2016 Oct 6.

Differential expression of cytoskeletal regulatory factors in the adolescent prefrontal cortex: Implications for cortical development.

Shapiro LP, Parsons RG, Koleske AJ, Gourley SL.
J Neurosci Res. 2017 May;95(5):1123-1143. doi: 10.1002/jnr.23960. Epub 2016 Oct 13. Review.

Adolescent cocaine self-administration induces habit behavior in adulthood: sex differences and structural consequences.

DePoy LM, Allen AG, Gourley SL.
Transl Psychiatry. 2016 Aug 30;6(8):e875. doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.150.

Going and stopping: Dichotomies in behavioral control by the prefrontal cortex.

Gourley SL, Taylor JR.
Nat Neurosci. 2016 Apr 26;19(6):656-664. doi: 10.1038/nn.4275.

The Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex Regulates Sensitivity to Outcome Value.

Gourley SL, Zimmermann KS, Allen AG, Taylor JR.
J Neurosci. 2016 Apr 20;36(16):4600-13. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4253-15.2016.

Strain commonalities and differences in response-outcome decision making in mice.

Zimmermann KS, Hsu CC, Gourley SL.
Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2016 May;131:101-8. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2016.03.016. Epub 2016 Mar 18.

Prefrontal cortical BDNF: A regulatory key in cocaine- and food-reinforced behaviors.

Pitts EG, Taylor JR, Gourley SL.
Neurobiol Dis. 2016 Jul;91:326-35. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2016.02.021. Epub 2016 Feb 26. Review.

Connections of the Mouse Orbitofrontal Cortex and Regulation of Goal-Directed Action Selection by Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor.

Zimmermann KS, Yamin JA, Rainnie DG, Ressler KJ, Gourley SL.
Biol Psychiatry. 2017 Feb 15;81(4):366-377. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.10.026. Epub 2015 Nov 18.

Voxel-based morphometry predicts shifts in dendritic spine density and morphology with auditory fear conditioning.

Keifer OP Jr, Hurt RC, Gutman DA, Keilholz SD, Gourley SL, Ressler KJ.
Nat Commun. 2015 Jul 7;6:7582. doi: 10.1038/ncomms8582.

Adolescent-onset GABAA α1 silencing regulates reward-related decision making.

Butkovich LM, DePoy LM, Allen AG, Shapiro LP, Swanson AM, Gourley SL.
Eur J Neurosci. 2015 Aug;42(4):2114-2121. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12995. Epub 2015 Aug 4.

Synaptic Cytoskeletal Plasticity in the Prefrontal Cortex Following Psychostimulant Exposure.

DePoy LM, Gourley SL.
Traffic. 2015 Sep;16(9):919-40. doi: 10.1111/tra.12295. Epub 2015 Jun 1. Review.

Selective role of the catalytic PI3K subunit p110β in impaired higher order cognition in fragile X syndrome.

Gross C, Raj N, Molinaro G, Allen AG, Whyte AJ, Gibson JR, Huber KM, Gourley SL, Bassell GJ.
Cell Rep. 2015 May 5;11(5):681-8. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.03.065. Epub 2015 Apr 23.

Adolescent cocaine exposure simplifies orbitofrontal cortical dendritic arbors.

DePoy LM, Perszyk RE, Zimmermann KS, Koleske AJ, Gourley SL.
Front Pharmacol. 2014 Oct 27;5:228. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2014.00228. eCollection 2014.

GABAAα1-mediated plasticity in the orbitofrontal cortex regulates context-dependent action selection.

Swanson AM, Allen AG, Shapiro LP, Gourley SL.
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Mar;40(4):1027-36. doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.292. Epub 2014 Sep 28.

Intersections of sex and corticotropin-releasing factor.

Gourley SL, Taylor JR.
Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Jun 1;75(11):838-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.03.021.

Early-life cocaine interferes with BDNF-mediated behavioral plasticity.

Hinton EA, Wheeler MG, Gourley SL.
Learn Mem. 2014 Apr 15;21(5):253-7. doi: 10.1101/lm.033290.113.

Glucocorticoid receptor regulation of action selection and prefrontal cortical dendritic spines.

Swanson AM, Shapiro LP, Whyte AJ, Gourley SL.
Commun Integr Biol. 2013 Nov 1;6(6):e26068. doi: 10.4161/cib.26068. Epub 2013 Aug 19.

Cytoskeletal determinants of stimulus-response habits.

Gourley SL, Olevska A, Gordon J, Taylor JR.
J Neurosci. 2013 Jul 17;33(29):11811-6. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1034-13.2013.

The orbitofrontal cortex regulates outcome-based decision-making via the lateral striatum.

Gourley SL, Olevska A, Zimmermann KS, Ressler KJ, Dileone RJ, Taylor JR.
Eur J Neurosci. 2013 Aug;38(3):2382-8. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12239. Epub 2013 May 8.

Corticosteroid-induced neural remodeling predicts behavioral vulnerability and resilience.

Gourley SL, Swanson AM, Koleske AJ.
J Neurosci. 2013 Feb 13;33(7):3107-12. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2138-12.2013.

Developmentally divergent effects of Rho-kinase inhibition on cocaine- and BDNF-induced behavioral plasticity.

DePoy LM, Noble B, Allen AG, Gourley SL.
Behav Brain Res. 2013 Apr 15;243:171-5. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.01.004. Epub 2013 Jan 14.

Prelimbic BDNF and TrkB signaling regulates consolidation of both appetitive and aversive emotional learning.

Choi DC, Gourley SL, Ressler KJ.
Transl Psychiatry. 2012 Dec 18;2:e205. doi: 10.1038/tp.2012.128.

Action control is mediated by prefrontal BDNF and glucocorticoid receptor binding.

Gourley SL, Swanson AM, Jacobs AM, Howell JL, Mo M, Dileone RJ, Koleske AJ, Taylor JR.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Dec 11;109(50):20714-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1208342109. Epub 2012 Nov 26.

Persistent effects of prior chronic exposure to corticosterone on reward-related learning and motivation in rodents.

Olausson P, Kiraly DD, Gourley SL, Taylor JR.
Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Feb;225(3):569-77. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2844-4. Epub 2012 Sep 15.

Arg kinase regulates prefrontal dendritic spine refinement and cocaine-induced plasticity.

Gourley SL, Olevska A, Warren MS, Taylor JR, Koleske AJ.
J Neurosci. 2012 Feb 15;32(7):2314-23. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2730-11.2012.

Integrin β1 signals through Arg to regulate postnatal dendritic arborization, synapse density, and behavior.

Warren MS, Bradley WD, Gourley SL, Lin YC, Simpson MA, Reichardt LF, Greer CA, Taylor JR, Koleske AJ.
J Neurosci. 2012 Feb 22;32(8):2824-34. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3942-11.2012.

Gene profiling reveals a role for stress hormones in the molecular and behavioral response to food restriction.

Guarnieri DJ, Brayton CE, Richards SM, Maldonado-Aviles J, Trinko JR, Nelson J, Taylor JR, Gourley SL, DiLeone RJ.
Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Feb 15;71(4):358-65. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.06.028.

Antidepressant-like properties of oral riluzole and utility of incentive disengagement models of depression in mice.

Gourley SL, Espitia JW, Sanacora G, Taylor JR.
Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Feb;219(3):805-14. doi: 10.1007/s00213-011-2403-4. Epub 2011 Jul 21.

See our latest news below!

Intrusive Thinking: See the new book, available open access, Intrusive Thinking, ed. Kalivas and Paulus

Forget About the Trap: Featured in Emory Health Digest 

The Lasting Effects of Social Isolation in Adolescence: Coverage of our report by Zibby Hinton, PhD in Psychology Today

The winner of the 2019 Curt-Richter Award of ISPNE: Award given to Elizabeth Barfield, PhD, and Shannon Gourley, PhD

Fragile X: preclinical portfolio for PI3k drug strategy: Lab Land coverage of research by Shannon Gourley, PhD and collaborators Christina Gross, PhD and Gary Bassell, PhD