University of Southern California

USC Neuroscience

Barbara Thompson

Assistant Professor
Occupational Therapy

Research Overview

As a trained behavioral neuroscientist, I use behavioral, molecular, and electrophysiological techniques to study the impact of environmental and genetic perturbations on brain development. I have extensively studied limbic circuitry and how disruptions alter affective processing, and how prenatal disruptions in reward circuitry lead to significant changes in behavior and cellular functions throughout development. My laboratory research program merges these two areas of interest towards exploring the neurobiological underpinnings of neurodevelopmental disorders in which disruptions in both affect and reward can have detrimental effects. Utilizing a combination of techniques in basic science and clinical research, my laboratory explores functional disruptions in behavior and attempts to elucidate the underlying neural changes responsible for these disruptions. The long term goals of these studies are to better understand these disruptions and responsible neural circuitry, thereby allowing for the design of individualized intervention for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Contact Information

Mailing Address:
University of Southern California
1540 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089-9003
Office Location:
CHP 222 H
Office Phone:
(323) 442-2808
Lab Location:
CHP 222 J


  • BS, Psychology, Florida State University
  • PhD, Psychology, University of Delaware
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Research Images

Selected Publications

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Eagleson, K.L., Campbell, D.B., Thompson, B.L., Bergman, M.Y., and Levitt, P.: The autism risk genes Met and PLAUR differentially impact cortical development. Autism Research. 4 (1), 68-83, (2011) -PubMed

Thompson, B.L. and Levitt, P. : The Clinical-Basic Interface in Defining Pathogenesis in Disorders of Neurodevelopmental Origin. Neuron. 67 (5), 702-12, 2010 -PubMed

Thompson, B.L. and Levitt, P.: Now You See It, Now You Don't—Closing in on Allostasis and Developmental Basis of Psychiatric Disorders. Neuron. 65 (4), 437-439, 2010 -PubMed

Thompson, B.L., Stanwood, G.D., and Levitt, P.: Specificity of prenatal cocaine exposure effects on cortical interneurons is independent from dopamine D1 receptor co-localization. Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy. 39 (4): 228-34, 2010. -PubMed

Thompson, B.L., Levitt, P., and Stanwood, G.D.: Prenatal exposure to drugs: effects on brain development and implications for policy and education. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 10 (4): 303-12, 2009 -PubMed

Thompson, B.L. and Stanwood, G.D.: Pleiotropic Effects of Neurotransmission during Development: Modulators of Modularity. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 39 (2): 260-268, 2009. -PubMed

H. D’Arceuil, C. Liu, P. Levitt, B. Thompson, B. Kosofsky, A. deCrespigny.: Three-dimensional high-resolution diffusion tensor imaging and tractography of the developing rabbit brain. Developmental Neuroscience. 30 (4): 262-75, 2008 -PubMed

Parlaman, J.P., Thompson, B.L., Levitt, P., & Stanwood, G.D.: Pharmacokinetic profile of cocaine following intravenous administration in the female rabbit. European Journal of Neuroscience. 563 (1-3): 124-129, 2007 -PubMed

Thompson, B.L. and Rosen, J.B.: Immediate early gene expression in the central nucleus of the amygdala is not specific for anxiolytic nor anxiogenic drugs. Neuropharmacology. 50 (1): 57-68, 2006 -PubMed

Thompson, B.L., Levitt, P., and Stanwood, G.D.: Prenatal cocaine exposure alters spontaneous alternation behavior, but not non-spatial working memory. Behavioural Brain Research. 164 (1): 107-116, 2005 -PubMed