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Sharon Swanger, Ph.D.

Sharon Swanger, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Sharon Swanger, Ph.D. headshot

“On a fundamental level, I’m fascinated by how one neuron can receive hundreds or even thousands of different synaptic signals and know how to process them. By gaining a deeper understanding of the diversity of synaptic receptors that receive these signals, we are edging closer to finding treatments for a wide range of neurological diseases.”

Studying the diversity of synapses

What are the molecular mechanisms that underlie seizure disorders?

Even when our bodies rest, millions of neuronal cells in our brains are active, firing electrical impulses. Most of the time, these signals are elegantly harmonized through circuits composed of many cells. When disrupted due to disease or brain injury, however, the activity in these circuits can become chaotic. This can lead to epilepsy, psychiatric diseases, or movement disorders, which afflict millions of Americans.

Clinical trials have shown that epilepsy therapies designed to inhibit glutamate receptors, while effective at stopping symptoms in some patients, can also produce intolerable side effects. Dr. Swanger's lab studies subtypes within a glutamate receptor family, called N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDAR). In particular, the Swanger Lab wants to try modulating the functional behavior of interconnected neurons in the thalamus, a region in the brain involved in seizure generation and where four different NMDAR subtypes are expressed. The Lab also studies Dravet Syndrome, a rare and catastrophic seizure disorder. 

  • Assistant Professor, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine

Swanger SA, Vance KM, Acker TM, Zimmerman SS, DiRaddo JO, Myers SJ, Mosley CA, Summer SL, Menaldino DF, Liotta DC, Traynelis SF. (2018). A novel negative allosteric modulator selective for GluN2C/2D-containing NMDARs inhibits synaptic transmission in hippocampal interneurons. ACS Chemical Neuroscience 9(2): 306-19.

Fry AE, Fawcett KA, Zelnik N, Yuan H, Thompson BAN, Shemer-Meiri L, Cushion TD, Mugalaasi H, Sims D, Stoodley N, Chung SK, Rees MI, Patel CV, Brueton LA, Layet V, Giuliano F, Kerr MP, Banne E, Meiner V, Lerman-Sagie T, Helbig KL, Kofman LH, Knight KM. (2018). De novo mutations in GRIN1 cause extensive bilateral polymicrogyria. Brain .

Bhattacharya S, Khatri A, Swanger SA, DiRaddo JO, Yi F, Hansen KB, Yuan H, Traynelis SF. (2018). Triheteromeric GluN1/GluN2A/GluN2C NMDA receptors with unique single channel properties are expressed in cerebellar granule cells. Neuron.



  • Emory University School of Medicine
    Instructor, Department of Pharmacology
  • Emory University School of Medicine
    Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Emory University: Ph.D., Neuroscience
  • Lehigh University: B.S., Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Scholar of the Year, Neuroscience Ph.D. Program, Emory University, 2012
  • Division Scholar Award, Graduate Division of Biomedical and Biological Sciences, Emory University, 2005-2010
  • College Scholar Honors Program, Lehigh University, 1997-2001
  • Alfred R. Glancy Full Tuition Scholarship, Lehigh University, 1997-2001