2022-2023 Lab Members

From left to right: Margaret Curley, Sidney Murray, Amy Maury, Dr. Katie Holton, Sarah Selougha, Kirsten Goldner. Kristina Didio, and Davonna Jones. Not pictured: Kaylyn Wadley, Clarice Cook, Ruby Schrag, and Fahimeh Martami

Lab Director

Kathleen Holton, PhD, MPH

Dr. Holton is the principal investigator of the Nutritional Neuroscience Lab at American University. She is a nutritional neuroscientist who studies the negative effects of dietary excitotoxin consumption on glutamatergic neurotransmission, as well as the positive protective effects of certain micronutrients against excitotoxicity, with the aim of optimizing neurological and psychiatric function through dietary treatment. A main focus of her research is on chronic widespread pain conditions, which commonly present with other neurologically mediated symptoms such as migraine, centrally mediated fatigue, cognitive dysfunction including memory issues and attention deficit, sleep problems, psychiatric symptoms, disruption of the gut-brain axis, and sometimes even seizure activity.

Clinical Research Coordinator

Dr. Houra Taheri

Dr. Houra Taheri is the Clinical Research Coordinator for the Nutritional Neuroscience Lab. She has a background working as a Nutritionist/Clinical Dietitian with a demonstrated history of successfully assessing, diagnosing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating dietary and medical nutrition care for individuals and groups. She has over twenty years of experience in nutrition, food science, clinical, and medical nutrition therapy and has career interests in Nutritional Neuroscience.

Graduate Students

Amy Maury

Amy Maury is a PhD student in the Behavior, Cognition, and Neuroscience (BCaN) program interested in studying the connection between the gut microbiome and behavior. Her research for her master’s degree in neuroscience explored blood biomarker changes as they relate to depression symptoms in veterans with Gulf War Illness (GWI) after one month on the low glutamate diet. Her dissertation research aims to investigate changes in alpha and beta diversity in the gut microbiome relative to depression in veterans with GWI. She will also explore the changes in the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA) and inflammatory biomarkers and their relationship to gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and behavioral outcomes.

Sidney Murray

Sidney Murray is a Behavior, Cognition, and Neuroscience PhD student who is interested in the connection between post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders and the role of glutamate in these illnesses. Her master’s research investigated the effects of the low glutamate diet on PTSD in Gulf War veterans, and how PTSD severity changed in relation to dietary adherence and serum biomarkers like cortisol. Her dissertation will also investigate the effects of the low glutamate diet on PTSD in Gulf War veterans as well as eating disorder symptoms.

Prior Graduate Students

Anna Kirkland

Anna Kirkland was a doctoral student in the Nutritional Neuroscience Lab until she graduated in Summer of 2020. Anna's master’s research investigated the effects of artificial food coloring on brain wave activity (EEG), cognitive functioning, and symptoms of ADHD in college students. For her doctoral research, Anna evaluated the effects of the low glutamate data on cognitive functioning in veterans with Gulf War Illness using both EEG and fMRI data. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Medical University of South Carolina

Gabrielle Sarlo

Gabrielle Sarlo was a doctoral student in the Nutritional Neuroscience Lab until she graduated in Summer 2022. Her master’s research was a retrospective study done in collaboration with Children's National Medical Center that aimed to assess the efficacy of ketogenic diet variants for treating pediatric epilepsy patients. For her doctoral research, she evaluated the effectiveness of the low glutamate diet as a potential adjunct treatment for refractory pediatric epilepsy. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Children’s National Hospital.

Past Lab Members

  • Madison Ballachino
  • Elizabeth Brandley
  • Sheila Carr
  • Catalina Cole
  • Nyah Collier
  • Prairie Fiebel
  • Marian Flaxman
  • Emmy Goyette
  • Michelle Joyce
  • Mackenzie Langan
  • Andrea Lopez
  • Kelly Mema
  • Tija Passley
  • Shalin Ramachandra
  • Ruby Schrag
  • Stephanie Tam