Emily Stephens

Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Rochester

After finishing my graduate work in the PEMM program, I moved on to a post doctoral associate position in the lab of Krishnan Padmanabhan in the neuroscience department at the University of Rochester. Our lab is called the Neural Circuits and Computation (NCC) lab which is a great description of what I do. The main question that has always interested me in neuroscience basically boils down to how do we think? What is special about the cells in our brain that allow us to do the many complex things that we take for granted every day? Things like eating, sending text messages, choosing what show to watch on Netflix, and reaching an appropriate distance to pet the cat. All of these things require that individual brain cells, connected to many other brain cells in specific sequences called neural circuits, send signals back and forth to each other using electrical and chemical signals. But what are these signals actually saying? How do we decode this complex language that neurons use to talk to each other? (This is the computation part!) To answer these questions, we must know more about the physical properties of the neurons themselves; things like, are they very sensitive and send electrical signals easily? Or do they need a lot of electricity to send one signal? Once they receive this signal, do they always interpret it 100% correctly? Or do they change the nature of the signal once it has been received? By understanding how the physical properties of brain cells impact the way that they send and receive signals from each other, we can more clearly understand how information about the world is computed and interpreted by the brain. Most of my experiments are done by growing human neurons in dishes. Once these cells are mature, I can use electrical recording equipment to detect the electrical signals that are being sent and received from the neurons that I have grown. I hope that one day my science will have an impact on human health by shedding light onto how a typical brain cell works and also what happens when the brain has a disease and the cells are no longer working properly.


  • PhD, '17, Neuroscience, Dartmouth College
  • BA, '12, Albion College

Selected Publications

  • Gulledge AT, Dasari S, Onoue K, Stephens EK, Hasse JM, Avesar D. A sodium-pump-mediated afterhyperpolarization in pyramidal neurons. J Neurosci. 2013 Aug 7;33(32):13025-41.

  • Stephens EK, Avesar D, Gulledge AT. Activity-dependent serotonergic excitation of callossal projection neurons in the mouse prefrontal cortex. Front Neural Circuits. 2014. Aug 26;8:97. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2014.00097. eCollection 2014.


National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA) Travel Award 2016 for the International Society for Serotonin Research

The Graduate Alumni Research Award, 2015

Neuroscience Center at Dartmouth Travel Award, 2013 & 2014