Christina Tognoni '09

Christina is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Systems and Integrative Neuroscience at Duke University and is the recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.

Hello! My name is Christina Tognoni and I am a graduate of the Wellesley College class of 2009. At Wellesley, I found the Neuroscience Major to be a perfect way to combine my interests in the sciences and psychology. I also majored in Spanish and spent a semester studying abroad in Córdoba, Spain with the PRESHCO program. ¡Olé!

In the summer after my sophomore year, I attended the Mechanisms of Behavior summer internship program at Duke University, where I researched how the availability of the nutrient choline early in development can affect how the adult rat brain responds to memory demands, aging, and injury. During my junior year I interned in the lab of Catherine Kerr at the Osher Center at Harvard Medical School, where I performed data analysis on studies exploring how Tai Chi exercise can affect touch perception and the somatosensory cortex in humans.

I began working with Marc Tetel the summer after my junior year and continued for my senior thesis. In the Tetel lab, I used triple-label immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy to examine the coexpression of estrogen-induced progestin receptors and nuclear receptor coactivators in the mouse hypothalamus, a brain region involved in reproductive behavior (Tognoni et al., 2011). Courtney Ackeifi ‘10 and I developed a computer protocol to analyze these confocal photomicrographs and identify distinct populations of cells that coexpress different steroid receptor-coactivator combinations. I believe our work has increased our understanding of how coactivators regulate hormone-dependent physiology. Overall, my experience in the Tetel lab has inspired my interest in the effect of hormones on brain processes and, ultimately, behavior.

This interest brought me back to the lab of Christina Williams at Duke University, where I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Systems & Integrative Neuroscience  in the department of Psychology & Neuroscience. Initially, I worked on a project investigating sex differences in spatial learning and hippocampal plasticity in rats. I have more recently become immersed in our lab’s collaboration with Lee Jones’ lab at the Duke Cancer Institute, in which we use rodent models to examine how aerobic exercise  enhances adult hippocampal neurogenesis and cognition and provides protection against neurological assault from cancer treatments, such as irradiation and chemotherapy. Passing along the support and professional experiences given to me in the Tetel lab at Wellesley, I am actively involved in training and mentoring a number of undergraduates that work in our lab (all of whom have become rat personal trainers) and have facilitated their participation in professional meetings (see: Abstracts).  I aim to become more engaged in my investigation of scientific questions that integrate neuroendocrinology with neuroplasticity.   




Wong-Goodrich, S. J., Tognoni, C. M., Mellott, T. J., Glenn, M. J., Blusztajn, J. K., & Williams, C. L. (2011). Prenatal choline deficiency does not enhance hippocampal vulnerability after kainic acid-induced seizures in adulthood. Brain Research, 1413, 84-97.

Tognoni, C. M., Chadwick Jr, J. G., Ackeifi, C. A., & Tetel, M. J. (2011). Nuclear receptor coactivators are coexpressed with steroid receptors and regulated by estradiol in mouse brain. Neuroendocrinology, 94, 49-57.


Tognoni, C.M., Williamson, L.L., & Williams, C.L. Irradiation-induced reduction of hippocampal neurogenesis causes long-term deficits in discriminating shapes and locations, and associating fear with context. San Diego, CA: Society for Neuroscience, 2013.

Williams, C.L., Tognoni, C.M., Britton, S.L., Koch, L.G., & Jones, L.W. Rats selectively bred for high running capacity have elevated hippocampal neurogenesis that is accompanied by enhanced pattern separation ability. San Diego, CA: Society for Neuroscience, 2013.

Andrejko, K.M., Tognoni, C.M., Koch, L.G., Britton, S.L., Jones, L.W., & Williams, C.L. Rats selectively bred for high running capacity have elevated hippocampal neurogenesis that is accompanied by a greater expression of hippocampal glucocorticoid receptors and altered contextual fear conditioning. San Diego, CA: Society for Neuroscience, 2013.

Saikia, J.M., Du, J., Tognoni, C.M., Koch, L.G., Britton, S.L., Peace, R.M., Jones, L.W., & Williams, C.L. Treadmill exercise training only enhances neurocognitive function if it is accompanied by significantly increases in aerobic capacity. San Diego, CA: Society for Neuroscience, 2013.

Tognoni, C.M., Flores, C.T., Babb, E.A., Wulsin, A.C., Jones, L.W., Williams, C.L. Voluntary running, but not stem cell treatment, recovers hippocampal neuroplasticity following whole-brain irradiation in immunodeficient mice. New Orleans, LA: Society for Neuroscience, 2012.

Babb, E.A., Tognoni, C.M., Saikia, J.M., Fowler, E.K., Britton, S.L., Koch, L.G., Williams, C.L., & Jones, L.W. Differential effects of fitness on adult rat hippocampal neurogenesis following chemotherapy treatment. New Orleans, LA: Society for Neuroscience, 2012.

Bhullar, P.K., Tognoni, C.M., Williams, C.L., & Covington III, H.E. Social defeat modifies cell proliferation in the hippocampus and amygdala. New Orleans, LA: Society for Neuroscience, 2012.

Tognoni, C.M. & Williams, C.L. Sex differences in hippocampal neuronal population responses to variations in environmental context. Poster. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2011.

Ackeifi C.A., Tognoni, C.M., Chadwick, J.G., & Tetel, M.J. Steroid receptor coactivator-1 (SRC-1) and SRC-2 are coexpressed with progestin receptors and regulated by estradiol in female mouse brain. Society for Neuroscience, 2009.

Tognoni, C.M., Ackeifi C.A., Chadwick, J.G., & Tetel, M.J. Cells in female mouse brain coexpress steroid receptors and nuclear receptor coactivators. The Endocrine Society, 2009.