Darlene D. Francis PhD

Associate Professor of Public Health and Neuroscience
  • PH216A: Biological Embedding of Social Experiences
  • PSYCH112/IB139: The Biology of Stress
  • PH39G/PSYCH39J: Unnatural Causes...Is Inequality Making Us Sick? (American Cultures Course)
Research Interests: 
  • Biological Basis of Health Disparities
  • Developmental Programming
  • Stress
  • Environment X Gene Interactions
  • A Biopsychosocial Approach to Health and Well-Being
  • Animal Models
Research Description: 

Darlene Francis's research program explores how biological, psychological and social processes interact over a lifetime to influence health and vulnerability to disease. Her laboratory explores how these processes are causally related. The historic belief that information only flows in one direction, from the genome, is simply incorrect. The research demonstrates that genetically identical organisms can manifest dramatically different phenotypic profiles in response to different environmental and social conditions. The research is focused on exploring how social inequalities in health come to be. Francis optimistically focuses on identifying opportunities for intervention. This level of transdisciplinary research can only be conducted with multiple collaborations that span many disciplines (molecular epigenetics through to social epidemiology). In sum, her research explores how experience and social factors are transduced into biology.

Selected Publications: 

Beery, AK and Francis, DD. Adaptive significance of natural variations in maternal care in rats: a translational perspective. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 2011 35(7): 1552-1561.

Sakhai, SA, Kriegsfeld, LJ and Francis, DD. The Impact of Early Life and Parental Care on the Sexual Development of Long-Evans Rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011

Saxton, K, John-Henderson, N, Reid, MW and Francis, DD. The social environment and iIL-6 in rats and humans. Brain, Behavior and Immunity 2011

Jensen, K, Hahn, N, Palme, R and Francis, DD (in press). Vacuum cleaner noise and acute stress responses in female C57BL/6 mice (Mus musculus). Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science

Francis, DD (2009). Conceptualizing Child Health Disparities: A Role for Developmental Neurogenomics. Pediatrics 124 Suppl 3:S196-202

Beery, AK, Lacey, EA and Francis, DD (2008). Oxytocin and Vasopressin Receptor Distributions in a Solitary and a Social Species of Tuco-Tuco (Ctenomys haigi and Ctenomys sociabilis) Journal of Comparative Neurology 507:1847-1859

Francis, D.D, Szegda, K., Campbell, G., Martin, W.D. and Insel, T.R. (2003). Epigenetic sources of behavioral differences in mice. Nature Neuroscience. 6 (5): 445-446.

Francis, D.D., Diorio, J., Plotsky, P.M. and Meaney, M.J. (2002). Environmental Enrichment reverses the effects of maternal separation on stress reactivity.

Francis, D.D. Young, L.J., Meaney, M.J. and Insel, T.R. (2002). Naturally occurring differences in material care are assiociated with the expression of oxytocin and vasopressin (V1a) receptors: gender differences. Journal of Neuroendocrinology. 14(14):349-353.

Francis,D.D. Champagne, F.C., and Meaney, M.J. (2000). Individual differences in maternal behavior are associated with variations in oxytocin receptor levels in rat. Journal of Neuroendocrinology. 12(12): 1145-1148.

Liu,D., Diorio, J., Day, J.C., Francis, D.D. and Meaney, M.J. (2000). Maternal care, hippocampal synaptogenesis and cognitive development in rats. Nature Neuroscience. 3(8): 799-806.

Meaney, M.J., Diorio, J., Francis, D.D., Weaver., S., Yau, J., Chapman, K. and Seckl, J.R. (2000). Poistnatal Handling increases the expression pf cAMP-inducible Transcription factors in the rat hippocampus: the Environmental enrichment reverses the Effects of maternal separation on stress reactivity effects of thyroid hormones and serotonin. Journal of Neuroscience. 20(10): 3926-3935.

Francis, D.D. Caldji, C., Champagne, F., Plotsky, P.M. and Meaney, M.J. (1999). The Role of corticotrophin-releasing factor <ETH> norepinepherine systems in mediating the effects of early experience on the development of behavioral and endocrine Responses to stress. Biological Psychiatry. 46(9):1153-1166.

Francis D.D., Diorio, J., Liu, D. and Meaney, M.J. (1999). Variations in maternal care Form the basis for a non-genomic mechanism of inter-generational transmission of individual differences in behavioral and endocrine responses to stress. Science. 286(5442):1155-8.

Francis, D.D. and Meaney, M.J. (1999). Maternal care and the development of syress responses. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 9, 128-134.

Lui, D., Diorio, J., Tannenbaum, B., Caldji, C., Francis D.D., Freedman. A., Sharma, S., Pearson, D., Plotsky, P.M., and Meaney, M.J. (1997) Maternal care, hippocampal glucocorticoid receptors, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to stress. Science. 277,1659-1662.

Profile Updated: November 8, 2011