Michael S. Fanselow, PhD

Dr. Michael Fanselow is Distinguished Professor, Psychology and Psychiatry Departments at the University of Los Angeles, CA. He also holds the Staglin Family Chair in Psychology and is Director of the Staglin Music Festival Center for Brain and Behavioral Health.

Dr. Fanselow received his MS degree from Brooklyn College in 1976, and his PhD from the University of Washington in 1980. Following his graduate work he held Assistant/Associate Professorships at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute and Dartmouth College.

Dr. Fanselow's laboratory has a long-standing interest in the nature and function of fear. “We want to understand the adaptive function of normal fear and how those systems go awry to produce anxiety disorders such as PTSD.” A series of questions of particular interest is how fear is learned and how fear memories are stored in the brain. That research concentrates its efforts on forebrain regions such as the amygdala, hippocampus and neocortex. “In terms of neurotransmitter/modulator systems, we have been concentrating our effort on glutamate, GABA, acetycholine and opioids. More than simply tracing the circuits, we are trying to determine the specific contributions that different components of the circuit contribute to the complete experience of an emotional memory.” Another important question is how fear memories are translated into specific behavior patterns. That work primarily focuses on the midbrain periaqueductal gray. The laboratory uses rat and mouse models featuring site-specific pharmacological, optogenetic and chemogenetic manipulations. Much of the current work examines behavior in genetically modified mice. “Our mission is to use every technique available to derive a complete understanding of fear-motivated behavior and how to return the pathologically frightened brain to a state where fear and anxiety again serve the adaptive healthy defensive function they evolved for.”