University of Southern California

USC Neuroscience

Ruth I. Wood


Professor of Cell and Neurobiology

Research Topics

  1. Sex: androgen control of male sexual behavior
  2. Drugs: anabolic-androgenic steroid abuse; ethanol and social behavior
  3. Mood: anxiety and depression in Parkinson's Disease

Research Overview

My research investigates neural circuits for behavior, including social behavior, affective behavior, and reinforcing behavior. In particular, we are interested in how gonadal steroid hormones act in the brain, both during development and in the adult, to effect sex differences and modify behavior.

One line of research investigates the neurobiology of anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) abuse. AAS are drugs of abuse, but the potential for dependence and addiction remains unclear. Recently studies from our laboratory have shown that male and female rodents will voluntarily self-administer testosterone and other AAS. Furthermore, we have observed fatal androgen overdose during self-administration. This suggests that AAS are potentially addictive, independent of their effects on muscle mass or athletic performance. We are currently exploring how AAS increase aggression ('roid rage) and sexual behavior.

In collaboration with Drs. Jakowec and Petzinger, my laboratory investigates affective behavior (mood) in an animal model of Parkinson's Disease. Parkinson's Disease preferentially affects men, and is not limited to motor dysfunction. Patients develop anxiety and depression. We investigate these behaviors in mice with experimental lesions of the substantia nigra, and test exercise as a remedy.

Contact Information

Mailing Address:
Keck School of Medicine of USC
Department of Cell and Neurobiology
1333 San Pablo St., BMT 401
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Office Location:
BMT 408a
Office Phone:
(323) 442-1980
Lab Location:
BMT 408
Lab Phone:
(323) 442-2094
(323) 442-2411


  • BS 1986 Animal Science- University of California, Davis
  • PhD 1991 Physiology- University of Michigan
  • Post-doc 1991-1994 Anatomy & Cell Biology- University of Michigan

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Selected Publications

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Kent K, Arientyl V, Khachatryan MM, Wood RI.  Oxytocin induces a conditioned social preference in female mice.  J Neuroendocrinol. 2013 Sep;25(9):803-10.


Wood RI, Rice R.  Ethanol-induced conditioned partner preference in female mice.  Behav Brain Res. 2013 Apr 15;243:273-7.


Wood RI, Armstrong A, Fridkin V, Shah V, Najafi A, Jakowec M.  'Roid rage in rats? Testosterone effects on aggressive motivation, impulsivity and tyrosine hydroxylase.  Physiol Behav. 2013 Feb 17;110-111:6-12.


Wood RI, Stanton SJ.  Testosterone and sport: current perspectives.  Horm Behav. 2012 Jan;61(1):147-55.


Wood RI, Vertelkina NV, Antzoulatos E.  Testosterone as a discriminative stimulus in male rats.  Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 Nov;100(1):185-90.


Antzoulatos E, Jakowec MW, Petzinger GM, Wood RI.  MPTP Neurotoxicity and Testosterone Induce Dendritic Remodeling of Striatal Medium Spiny Neurons in the C57Bl/6 Mouse.  Parkinsons Dis. 2011;2011:138471.


Tsutsui KT, Wood RI, Craft RM.  Anabolic-androgenic steroid effects on nociception and morphine antinociception in male rats.  Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 Sep;99(3):500-8.


Gorton LM, Vuckovic MG, Vertelkina N, Petzinger GM, Jakowec MW, Wood RI.  Exercise effects on motor and affective behavior and catecholamine neurochemistry in the MPTP-lesioned mouse.  Behav Brain Res. 2010 Dec 1;213(2):253-62.


Antzoulatos E, Jakowec MW, Petzinger GM, Wood RI.  Sex differences in motor behavior in the MPTP mouse model of Parkinson's disease.  Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2010 Jun;95(4):466-72.


Kanayama G, Brower KJ, Wood RI, Hudson JI, Pope HG Jr.  Treatment of anabolic-androgenic steroid dependence: Emerging evidence and its implications.  Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Jun 1;109(1-3):6-13.