Cedric L. Williams

Primary Appointment

  • Professor, Psychology


Research Interest(s)

Relationship between emotionally arousing events and their capacity to modulate brain systems that encode new experiences into memory

Research Description

My primary research interests are centered on understanding the relationship between emotionally arousing events and their capacity to modulate brain systems that encode new experiences into memory. A major focus of this research is to delineate the role brainstem nuclei play in this process. They are known to receive synaptic input regarding changes in peripheral autonomic and neuroendocrine states following emotional arousal and also are responsible for conveying this information to brain structures that regulate memory formation. A second but equally important objective of this research is to reveal how brainstem structures that are recipients of this information, affect memory formation by influencing neurotransmitter release in limbic structures such as the amygdala and hippocampus.We use a battery of behavioral learning tasks as well as in vivo microdialysis to identify the types of chemical transmitters that are released in the brain to affect memory storage.

UNLEASH (Undergraduate Research)

Our research is designed to understand how hormonal changes in the body and the physiological changes they produce after exposure to meaningful or emotionally arousing events, influences neural circuits in the brain to encode these experiences into memory more effectively. These types of questions are approached with 1) the use of a battery of behavioral learning tasks with laboratory rodents, 2) in vivo microdialysis to identify which chemical neurotransmitters are released in the brain while they are learning and 3) immunohistochemistry to reveal the brain regions activated by these experiences. The combined approaches will reveal the functional relevance of anatomical and chemical interactions that take place in the brain during the memory formation process. An understanding of how meaningful or arousing events influence neural activity in specific anatomical regions will provide a model of how the brain transforms representations of everyday experiences into permanent memories. Contact: Prof. Williams clw3b@virginia.edu Website: www.virginia.edu/psychology/people/detail.php?id=174

Selected Publications

  • Young E, Williams C. Differential activation of amygdala Arc expression by positive and negatively valenced emotional learning conditions. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience. 2013;7 191. PMID: 24367308 | PMCID: PMC3852216
  • Chen C, Williams C. Interactions between epinephrine, ascending vagal fibers, and central noradrenergic systems in modulating memory for emotionally arousing events. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience. 2012;6 35. PMID: 22754515 | PMCID: PMC3384987
  • Park S, Williams C. Contribution of serotonin type 3 receptors in the successful extinction of cued or contextual fear conditioned responses: interactions with GABAergic signaling. Reviews in the neurosciences. 2012;23(5): 555-69. PMID: 23087085
  • McIntyre C, McGaugh J, Williams C. Interacting brain systems modulate memory consolidation. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews. 2011;36(7): 1750-62. PMID: 22085800 | PMCID: PMC3315607
  • Young E, Williams C. Valence dependent asymmetric release of norepinephrine in the basolateral amygdala. Behavioral neuroscience. 2010;124(5): 633-44. PMID: 20939663
  • King S, Williams C. Novelty-induced arousal enhances memory for cued classical fear conditioning: interactions between peripheral adrenergic and brainstem glutamatergic systems. Learning & memory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.). 2009;16(10): 625-34. PMID: 19794188
  • Kerfoot E, Chattillion E, Williams C. Functional interactions between the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) and nucleus accumbens shell in modulating memory for arousing experiences. Neurobiology of learning and memory. 2007;89(1): 47-60. PMID: 17964820 | PMCID: PMC2175480