Dr. Roth’s research has been focused on understanding the neural basis of behavior. Her PhD research was funded by a NRSA training fellowship from NIDA and investigated the neurobehavioral basis of infant attachment to an abusive caregiver and the ontogeny of fear learning and memory (rodent model). Her work demonstrated the pivotal role of the endogenous opioid system in infant memory and was the first to assess the role of the piriform cortex in infant learning and memory. She also developed a semi-naturalistic paradigm of abusive caregiver attachment in the rat, and an adaptation of this paradigm is used in her current work at the University of Delaware.
Dr. Roth has also done work on the epigenetic mechanisms of memory formation. She showed that adult rats who had been maltreated as infants had significant deficits in expression of the Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) gene in their prefrontal cortex, an effect attributable to aberrant DNA methylation within the brain. Further, she demonstrated the heritable nature (i.e. in next-generation offspring) of these epigenetic alterations.
Her research efforts have led to the discoveries of long-term and sex-specific consequences of caregiver maltreatment within the developing and adult medial PFC, amygdala, and hippocampus. She has also shown an association between caregiver maltreatment and telomere length in brain tissue. Together her data provide novel evidence for mechanisms by which maltreatment could get “under the skin” to affect brain development and behavioral trajectories.
Dr. Roth has participated in brain awareness events and given lectures across the United States. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets including The Scientist, Psychiatric News, Nature News Feature, and Science magazine.
Dr. Roth is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Delaware. She earned her doctorate in zoology in 2004 from the University of Oklahoma.