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Patricia M. Whitaker-Azmitia, Ph.D.

University of Toronto (1979)
Professor, Integrative Neuroscience
Dr. Whitaker-Azmitia will not be accepting graduate students for the upcoming academic year.


Office: Psychology B-312
Phone: (631) 632-9899

Research Interests:

Animal models of human developmental illnesses.

Current Research:

Dr. Whitaker-Azmitia is a neuropharmacologist interested in brain development, in particular what is different in development which leads to disorders such as autism. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and hormones such as progesterone and cortisol play a role.  Although past work has focused almost entirely on animal models (including the rat model of developmental hyperserotonemia developed in this lab) currently Dr. Whitaker-Azmitia is working more with human subjects and using that information to develop better animal models.

In human illnesses such as autism, animal models can not only verify etiologies, they can also be used to test treatments Continuously modifying models is essential to new discoveries. For example, research on obstetrical factors has led to our recently published hypothesis that low levels of progesterone during development will lead to an increased incidence of autism.  To further test this hypothesis, an animal model of lowered progesterone will be developed.  Furthermore, women who perceive more stress during pregnancy are also more likely to give birth to a child with autism – and a model of prenatal stress will be used in animals to determine whether or not autism-like behaviors and neurochemistry result. 

Representative Publications:

Azmitia EC, Saccomano ZT, Alzoobaee MF, Boldrini M, Whitaker-Azmitia PM. Persistent Angiogenesis in the Autism Brain: An Immunocytochemical Study of Postmortem Cortex, Brainstem and Cerebellum. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015 [Epub ahead of print]

Whitaker-Azmitia PM, Lobel M, Moyer A. (2014) Low maternal progesterone may contribute to both obstetrical complications and autism. Med Hypotheses 82(3): 313-8.

Whitaker-Azmitia, P.M. Lobel, M. and Moyer, A (2013) Low maternal progesterone may be a single factor contributing to both obstetrical complications and autism Medical Hypothesis, in press.

Muneoka K, Funahashi H, Ogawa T, Whitaker-Azmitia, PM and Shioda S (2012) Shared features of S100B immunohistochemistry and cytochrome oxidase histochemistry in the ventroposterior thalamus and lateral habenula in neonatal rats. Int J. Dev. Neurosci., 30 (6): 499-505.

Aiello TP, Whitaker-Azmitia PM. (2011) Sexual differentiation and the neuroendocrine hypothesis of autism. Anat Rec . 294(10):1663-70.

Azmitia EC, Singh JS, Whitaker-Azmitia PM. (2011) Increased serotonin axons (immunoreactive to 5-HT transporter) in postmortem brains from young autism donors. Neuropharmacology.;60(7-8):1347-54.

Current Research Support:

2006-Present Chlorpyrifos and oxidative stress in brain development

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences