Robert Berman, Ph.D.

Robert F. Berman, Ph.D.


Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neuroscience Research


Traumatic Brain Injury


  • Chair of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience
  • Director of the Neurosciences Lab
  • Professor and Vice Chair of Research


Clinical Interests

Dr. Berman's research interests focus on mechanisms of brain injury and recovery, neurodevelopmental disorders including autism, neuroplasticity, and brain mechanisms of learning and memory. Current studies in Dr. Berman�s laboratory include the role of calcium in brain injury and the potential of specific neuronal calcium channel antagonists to protect the brain after injury. Studies are carried out at the cellular, neurochemical, neuroanatomical and behavioral levels. Cell/molecular experiments include in vitro measurements of intracellular calcium levels in primary neuronal and glial cell cultures. Neurotransmitter changes associated with brain injury are assessed by in vivo microdialysis and HPLC (e.g., catecholamines, excitatory amino acids, purines). Dr. Berman also examines ultrastructural changes in the brain using standard histological procedures and stereological quantification of cell numbers. At the behavioral level, memory and learning, sensory perception, and motor performance are assessed in animals in response to treatment with novel neuroprotective agents. The overall goals of this research are to understand the cellular mechanisms that lead to neuronal damage and behavioral disability after brain injury, and to develop specific treatments that will facilitate recovery and improve neurological outcome. A second area of interest is the effects of exposure to environmental toxins (e.g., mercury, PCBs, alcohol) early in development on brain growth and behavior. Dr. Berman is particularly interested in the possibility that environmental toxins may contribute to the development of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. He is currently developing and using animal models of neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., Fragile X premutation, BTBR)to examine brain development and the expression of complex behaviors, including memory, attention and social communication after prenatal and neonatal toxin exposure.


Neurological Surgery

Center/Program Affiliation

Center for Neuroscience
UC Davis MIND Institute


Ph.D., University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1976

B.A., University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1970

M.S., University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1974


University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1976-1978

Professional Memberships

American Society for Neurochemistry (ASN)

International Behavioral and Neural Genetics Society

International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism

National Neurotrauma Society

Research Society on Alcoholism

Society for Neuroscience

Honors and Awards

National Associate of the National Academies (designated lifetime member), 2002

Visiting Scientist Award, Medical Research Council of Sweden, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, 1995

Visiting Professor, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, 1992

Select Recent Publications

Berman RF, Murray KD, Arque G, Hunsaker MR, Wenzel HJ. Abnormal dendrite and spine morphology in primary visual cortex in the CGG knock-in mouse model of the fragile X premutation. Epilepsia. 2012 Jun;53 Suppl 1:150-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2012.03486.x.

Diep AA, Hunsaker MR, Kwock R, Kim K, Willemsen R, Berman RF. Female CGG knock-in mice modeling the fragile X premutation are impaired on a skilled forelimb reaching task. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2012 Feb;97(2):229-34. Epub 2011 Dec 21.

Tassone F, Greco CM, Hunsaker MR, Seritan AL, Berman RF, Gane LW, Jacquemont S, Basuta K, Jin LW, Hagerman PJ, Hagerman RJ. Neuropathological, clinical and molecular pathology in female fragile X premutation carriers with and without FXTAS. Genes Brain Behav. 2012 Mar 30. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2012.00779.x. [Epub ahead of print]

Hunsaker MR, Arque G, Berman RF, Willemsen R, Hukema RK. Mouse models of the fragile x premutation and the fragile X associated tremor/ataxia syndrome. Results Probl Cell Differ. 2012;54:255-69.

Hunsaker MR, Greco CM, Spath MA, Smits AP, Navarro CS, Tassone F, Kros JM, Severijnen LA, Berry-Kravis EM, Berman RF, Hagerman PJ, Willemsen R, Hagerman RJ, Hukema RK. Widespread non-central nervous system organ pathology in fragile X premutation carriers with fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome and CGG knock-in mice. Acta Neuropathol. 2011 Oct;122(4):467-79. doi: 10.1007/s00401-011-0860-9. Epub 2011 Jul 23.

Hunsaker MR, von Leden RE, Ta BT, Goodrich-Hunsaker NJ, Arque G, Kim K, Willemsen R, Berman RF. Motor deficits on a ladder rung task in male and female adolescent and adult CGG knock-in mice. Behav Brain Res. 2011 Sep 12;222(1):117-21. Epub 2011 Mar 31.

Greco CM, Navarro CS, Hunsaker MR, Maezawa I, Shuler JF, Tassone F, Delany M, Au JW, Berman RF, Jin LW, Schumann C, Hagerman PJ, Hagerman RJ. Neuropathologic features in the hippocampus and cerebellum of three older men with fragile X syndrome. Mol Autism. 2011 Feb 8;2(1):2.

Cunningham CL, Mart�nez Cerde�o V, Navarro Porras E, Prakash AN, Angelastro JM, Willemsen R, Hagerman PJ, Pessah IN, Berman RF, Noctor SC. Premutation CGG-repeat expansion of the Fmr1 gene impairs mouse neocortical development. Hum Mol Genet. 2011 Jan 1;20(1):64-79. Epub 2010 Oct 8.

Beller JA, Gurkoff GG, Berman RF, Lyeth BG. Pharmacological enhancement of glutamate transport reduces excitotoxicity in vitro. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2011 Jan 1;29(5):331-46. doi: 10.3233/RNN-2011-603.

Fedor M, Berman RF, Muizelaar JP, Lyeth BG. Hippocampal ? dysfunction after lateral fluid percussion injury. J Neurotrauma. 2010 Sep;27(9):1605-15.

Wenzel HJ, Hunsaker MR, Greco CM, Willemsen R, Berman RF. Ubiquitin-positive intranuclear inclusions in neuronal and glial cells in a mouse model of the fragile X premutation. Brain Res. 2010 Mar 8;1318:155-66. Epub 2010 Jan 4.