Clarissa Parker

Assistant Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience

 Summer: By appointment only.
 McCardell Bicentennial Hall 274

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.



Course List: 


Castro-Gomes V, Bergstrom HC, McGuire JL, Parker CC, Coyner J, Landeira-Fernandez J,  Ursano RS, Palmer AA, Johnson LR (2016). Dendritic organization of lateral amygdala neurons in fear susceptible and resistant mice. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 127: 64-71.

Yazdani N, Parker CC, Shen Y, Guido MA, Kole LA, Kirkpatrick SL, Lim JE, Sokoloff G, Cheng, R, Johnson WE, Palmer AA, Bryant CD (2015). Hnrnph1 is a quantitative trait gene for methamphetamine sensitivity. PLoS Genetics 11(11): e1005713.

Pallares LF, Carbonetto P, Gopalakrishan S, Parker CC, Ackert-Bicknell CL, Palmer AA, Tautz D (2015). Mapping of craniofacial traits in outbred mice identifies major developmental genes involved in shape determination. PLoS Genetics 11(11): e1005607.

Parker CC, Carbonetto P, Sokoloff G, Park YJ, Abney M, Palmer AA (2014). High-resolution genetic mapping of complex traits in a combined analysis of an F2 intercross and an advanced intercross. Genetics 198: 103-116.

Carbonetto P, Cheng R, Gyekis JP, Parker CC, Blizard DA, Palmer AA, Lionikas A (2014). Discovery and refinement of muscle weight QTLs in B6 x D2 advanced intercross mice. Physiological Genomics 46: 671-582.

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.


Department of Psychology

McCardell Bicentennial Hall
276 Bicentennial Way
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753