Dr. Jacqueline Blundell has been studying the science behind fear since she was a student, and now as an associate professor in the Department of Psychology.
Her PhD centered on using predator stress as a way to induce fear in an animal model of post-traumatic stress disorder, while her current research looks at the long-term effects of fear.
The goal of her research is to understand why some people are resilient to traumatic stress while others develop psychopathologies. One potential explanation she is currently exploring is parental experience.
Experiments in rodents confirm the effects of stress can be transmitted to future generations. She's been working to produce an animal model which demonstrates brain and behavioural changes by exposing prey animals to predators in a protected environment.
Despite the fact that offspring have never been exposed to a stressor (i.e. the predator), they avoid open spaces, and don't like bright light. Surprisingly, the anxiety-like behaviour is also seen in their grandchildren, suggesting that the effects cross multiple generations.
Now that she has a model, her next step is to identify the mechanism by which this transference occurs. By helping to illuminate the mechanistic underpinnings of these generational effects of stress, her research may help identify at-risk individuals and potential novel targets for treatments, with the overall goal of improving mental health outcomes.