Clarissa Parker

Assistant Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience

Phone: work802.443.5673
Office Hours: Mondays 4:00-5:30p; Wednesdays 9:00-10:00a; Thursdays 4:30-5:30p
Download Contact Information

Clarissa Parker is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Middlebury College.  She arrived at Middlebury in 2013, after completing a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Chicago.  Clarissa received a B.A. in Psychology (with a minor in Philosophy) from Colorado College, and a Ph.D. in Psychology (with a concentration in Neuroscience and a certificate in Behavioral Genetics) from the University of Colorado.     

Psychiatric disorders affect millions of individuals, and disrupt some of the most fundamental human attributes such as thought, perception, mood, and even sense of self.  The relative genetic contribution to psychiatric disorders is well known, yet identifying the underlying molecular mechanisms has proven difficult. Clarissa’s research uses the relative simplicity of mouse models to develop concepts, test neurobiological hypotheses, and identify genes that underlie traits with relevance to human psychiatric disorders.  Her recent work has focused on behaviors that can be measured in both mice and humans; including conditioned fear (a model of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder), pre-pulse inhibition (a neurological phenomenon associated with schizophrenia) and methamphetamine sensitivity (a trait indicative of drug reward).  This approach has provided fundamental insights into the neurobiology underlying these traits and a better understanding of the mechanisms by which genes influence behavior.  In her free time, Clarissa enjoys yoga, fly fishing, and splitting wood.



indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

NSCI 0500 - Independent Research      

Independent Research
Students enrolled in NSCI 0500 complete individual research projects involving laboratory or extensive library study on a topic chosen by the student and approved in advance by a NSCI faculty advisor. This course is not open to seniors; seniors should enroll in NSCI 0700. (Approval required)

Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015

More Information »

NSCI 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Research
This course is for senior NSCI majors who plan to conduct one or more semesters of independent research, or who plan to complete preparatory work toward a senior thesis, such as researching and writing a thesis proposal as well as, if appropriate, collecting data that will form the basis for a senior thesis. Senior NSCI majors who plan to complete a senior thesis should register initially for NSCI 0700. Additional requirements may include participation in weekly meetings with advisors and/or lab groups and attending neuroscience seminars. (Approval required, open to seniors only)

Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015

More Information »

NSCI 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Senior NSCI majors who have completed one or more terms of NSCI 0700, who have a GPA of 3.3 in their major courses, and who plan to complete a senior thesis should register for NSCI 0701 for the final semester of the senior thesis process. Students enrolled in NSCI 0701 write a thesis, give a public presentation of their research, and present an oral defense of the thesis before a committee of at least two Neuroscience faculty members. Faculty may recommend High honors in Neuroscience after considering the quality of these components of a student’s thesis and the student’s GPA in major courses. Additional requirements may include participation in weekly meetings with advisors and/or lab groups and attending neuroscience seminars. (NSCI 0700, Approval required)

Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015

More Information »

PSYC 0105 - Introduction To Psychology      

Introduction to Psychology
This course will provide a general introduction to the field of psychology. The most central and important theories, concepts, findings, controversies, and applications in the following areas will be considered: biological bases of behavior, learning, perception, thinking, development, personality, psychological disorders, and social behavior. (Open to Juniors and Seniors by waiver only) 3 hrs lect./1 hr. disc.


Fall 2013, Spring 2015

More Information »

PSYC 0201 - Psychological Statistics      

Psychological Statistics
This course will examine statistical methods used in the behavioral and biological sciences. Students will learn the logic underlying statistical analysis, focusing primarily on inferential techniques. They also will become familiar with the application and interpretation of statistics in psychological empirical research, including the use of computer software for conducting and interpreting statistical analyses. (PSYC 0105; Fall: open to psychology and neuroscience majors and undeclared majors, others by waiver; Spring: open to psychology and neuroscience majors; others by waiver. Not open to students who have taken MATH 0116 or ECON 0210) 3 hrs. lect./1.5 hr. lab


Fall 2013, Spring 2015

More Information »

PSYC 0301 / NSCI 0301 - Physiological Psychology      

Physiological Psychology
This course concerns the biological basis of human behavior. The course will consider the neurochemical, neuroanatomical, and neurophysiological bases of processes such as language, sensation, emotion, aggression, sleep, learning, and memory. In the laboratory the student will conduct experiments using standard (surgical, anatomical, biochemical, behavioral) techniques to investigate central nervous system function. (PSYC 0105 or any biology course; not open to first-year students; open to psychology and neuroscience majors; others by waiver) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab.


Spring 2014, Fall 2014

More Information »

PSYC 0350 - Directed Research      

Directed Research in Psychology
Directed research provides opportunities for advanced students to become familiar with and participate in ongoing research projects under the direction of a faculty member. The student will first read background literature on the content area to be investigated and experimental methodologies to be used. Procedures involved in conducting psychological research will then be learned through firsthand experience. Potential activities include the design of research and the defining of conceptual variables and the gathering, analyzing, and interpretation of data. Finally, students will learn how to write technical articles in psychology by preparing a paper describing the project, using APA style. (Approval required; not open to first-year students) 3 hrs. lect.

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

More Information »

PSYC 0434 / NSCI 0434 - Genes, Brain, Behavior      

Genes, Brain, and Behavior
What we experience—and how we experience it—is influenced by our unique combination of genes. For better or worse, the gene variants we inherit from our parents contribute to our predispositions to psychological disorders, our personalities, and even the way in which we perceive the world around us. To be clear, anything that you can do or think is in some way influenced by your genes. However, this statement comes with a large caveat: except in the case of (relatively) rare single gene mutations, your genes do not determine but rather contribute to who you are. Working within the field of behavior genetics, we will cover topics such as social behavior, obesity, sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, language, and anxiety. (NSCI/PSYC 0301 or NSCI/BIOL 0370; Open to junior/senior neuroscience or psychology majors only, others by approval) 3hrs. sem.


Fall 2014

More Information »

PSYC 0500 - Advanced Research      

Advanced Research
A program of research arranged to meet the needs of advanced students majoring in psychology. (Approval required)

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

More Information »

PSYC 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Research
A program of research arranged to meet the needs of advanced senior majors in psychology. (PSYC 0201 and PSYC 0202; Approval required)

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015

More Information »

PSYC 0701 - Senior Thesis Proposal      

Senior Thesis Proposal
Students hoping to be considered as candidates for departmental honors must enroll in PSYC 0701 under the sponsorship of a department faculty member and submit a formal, written research proposal to the department by 5 p.m. on the Wednesday during the final week of fall classes in their senior year. If the proposal is approved, the student will enroll in PSYC 0702 during the winter term and PSYC 0703 during the spring term of their senior year. (Feb graduates should consult with their advisors about the appropriate semester in which to begin a thesis.) (PSYC 0201 and PSYC 0202; Approval required)

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

More Information »

PSYC 0702 - Senior Thesis Second Semester      

Senior Thesis Second Semester
Students whose honors thesis proposal (PSYC 0701) has been approved will collect, analyze, and interpret their data. This is the second semester of the 3-semester senior thesis. (PSYC 0201, PSYC 0202, and PSYC 0701; Approval required)

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

More Information »

PSYC 0703 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis*
This is the third and final semester of the senior thesis. Students will finish analyzing, and interpreting their data. This process culminates in a written thesis to be submitted by 4 p.m. on the Monday BEFORE the final week of spring classes, a presentation, and an oral defense. The decision about awarding departmental honors will be made after the student submits the thesis. (PSYC 0201, PSYC 0202, and PSYC 0702; Approval required)

Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015

More Information »


Parker CC, Carbonetto P, Sokoloff G, Park YJ, Palmer AA (in press). High-resolution genetic mapping of complex traits in a combined analysis of an F2 intercross and an advanced intercross. Genetics.

Coyner J, McGuire JL, Parker CC, Ursano RR, Palmer AA, Johnson, LR (2014). Mice selectively bred for High and Low fear behavior show differences in the number of pMAPK (p44/42 ERK) expressing neurons in lateral amygdala following Pavlovian fear conditioning. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 112: 195-203.

Parker CC, Chen H, Flagel SB, Geurts AM, Richards JB, Robinson TE, Solberg Woods LC, Palmer AA (2014). Rats are the smart choice: Rationale for a renewed focus on rats in behavioral genetics. Neuropharmacology 76B: 250-258

McGuire JL, Bergstrom HC, Parker CC, Le T, Morgan M, Tang H, Selwyn R, Silva AC, Choi K, Ursano RJ, Palmer AA, Johnson LR (2013). Traits of fear resistance and susceptibility in an advanced intercross line. European Journal of Neuroscience 38: 3314-3324.

Cheng R, Parker CC, Abney M, Palmer AA. (2013). Practical considerations regarding the use of genotype and pedigree data in the context of genome-wide association studies. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics 3: 1861-1867.

Parker CC, Sokoloff G, Leung E, Kirkpatrick SL, Palmer, AA (2013). A large QTL for fear and anxiety mapped using an F2 cross can be dissected into multiple smaller QTLs. Genes, Brain and Behavior 12: 714-722.

Fitzpatrick CJ, Gopalakrishnan S, Cogan ES, Yager LM, Meyer PJ, Lovic V, Saunders BT, Parker CC, Gonzales NM, Aryee E, Flagel SB, Palmer AA, Robinson TE, Morrow JD (2013). Variation in the form of Pavlovian conditioned approach behavior among outbred male Sprague Dawley rats from different vendors and colonies: sign-tracking vs. goal-tracking. PLoS One 8: e75042.

Choi K, Le T, McGuire J, Xing G, Zhang L, Li H, Parker CC, Johnson LR, Ursano RJ (2012). Expression pattern of the cannabinoid receptor genes in the frontal cortex of mood disorder patients and mice selectively bred for high and low fear. J Psychiatric Res 46: 882-889.

Bartnikas TB, Parker CC, Cheng R, Campagna DR, Lim JE, Palmer AA, Fleming MD (2012). QTL for murine red blood cell parameters in LG/J and SM/J F2 and advanced intercross lines. Mammalian Genome 23: 356-366.

Parker CC, Sokoloff, G, Cheng R, Palmer AA (2012). Genome-wide association for fear conditioning in an advanced  intercross mouse line. Behavioral Genetics 42: 437-448.

Parker CC, Cheng R, Sokoloff G, Palmer AA (2012). Genome-wide association for methamphetamine sensitivity in an advanced intercross mouse line.  Genes, Brain and Behavior 11: 52-61. 

Bryant CD, Parker CC, Zhou L, Olker C, Bolivar VJ, Wager TT, Vitatema MH, Turek FW, Palmer AA (2012).  Csnk1e is a genetic regulator of sensitivity to psychostimulants and opioids.  Neuropsychopharmacology 37: 1026-1035.

Parker CC, Palmer AA (2011). Dark matter: Are mice the solution to missing heritability?  Frontiers in Genetics 2: 32 Jun 13 [Epub ahead of print]

Parker CC, Cheng R, Sokoloff G, Lim JE, Skol AD, Abney M, Palmer AA (2011).  Fine-mapping alleles for body weight in LG/J x SM/J F2 and F34 advanced intercross lines.  Mammalian Genome 22: 563-571.

Sokoloff G, Parker CC, Lim J, Palmer AA (2011). Anxiety and fear in a cross of C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice: mapping overlapping and independent QTL for related traits.  Genes, Brain and Behavior 10: 604-614. 

Newman TK, Parker CC, Suomi SJ, Goldman D, Barr CS, Higley JD (2009).  DRD1 5’UTR variation, sex and early infant stress influence ethanol consumption in rhesus macaques.  Genes, Brain and Behavior 8: 626-630.

Parker CC, Ponicsan H, Spencer R L, Holmes A, Johnson TE (2008).  Restraint stress and exogenous corticosterone differentially alter sensitivity to the sedative-hypnotic effects of ethanol in ILS and ISS mice.  Alcohol 42: 477-485.

Bennett B, Downing C, Parker C, Johnson TE (2006).  Mouse genetic models in alcohol research.  Trends in Genetics 22: 367-74.

Barr CS, Newman TK, Shannon C, Parker C, Dvoskin RL, Becker ML, Schwandt M, Champoux M, Lesch KP, Goldman D, Suomi, SJ, Higley JD (2004).  Rearing condition and rh5-HTTLPR interact to influence limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to stress in infant macaques.  Biological Psychiatry 55:  733-8.

Barr CS, Newman TK, Becker ML, Parker CC, Champoux M, Lesch KP, Goldman D, Suomi SJ, Higley JD (2003).  The utility of the non-human primate model for studying gene by environment interaction in behavioral research.  Genes, Brain and Behavior 2:  336-40.

Book Chapters

Parker CC, Palmer AA. (2013). Using intermediate phenotypes to bridge the gap between human and mouse genetics.  In J. MacKillop & M. Muñafo (Eds.), Genetic influences on addiction: an intermediate phenotype approach.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/genetic-influences-addiction