Barbara Thompson

Assistant Professor
Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Barbara   Thompson

Research Topics

  • Social and Emotional Neurodevelopment
  • Sensory Integration Intervention
  • Mouse Models for Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Biomarkers for Toxic Stress

Research Images

Pictures of the conditioned place preference (CPP) arena. (A) The newly constructed child-friendly, three room, custom-designed arena was designed as a castle to encourage children to explore the arena. (B) When standing in the neutral room, the child has to decide which of the two rooms they want to enter first. (C) Overhead view of one room in the castle arena. (D) Blueprint design of the physical dimensions of the custom-designed arena. [d] = door.Confocal images of fluorescent in situ hybridization for Drd1, Pvalb and Calb1In situ hybridization autoradiograms in the developing rabbit brainEarly challenges to neurodevelopment can create an allostatic load that can alter typical developmental trajectory

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
Center for Health Professions Rm 133
Los Angeles, CA 90089-9003
Office Location CHP 222 H
Office Phone (323) 442-2808
Lab Location CHP 222 J
Lab Phone
Office Location CHP 222 H



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

Selected Publications

  • Hiller LT, Takata S and Thompson B.L. Conditioned place preference successfully established in typically developing children. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. 9:187, 2015. PubMed
  • Thompson, B.L. and Levitt, P.: Complete or partial reduction of the Met receptor tyrosine kinase in distinct circuits differentially impacts mouse behavior. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders. 7 (35), 2015. PubMed
  • 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
  • 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