Helen Scharfman, Ph.D.

Dr Helen Scharfman

Helen Scharfman, Ph.D.

Research Scientist
Center for Dementia Research
Dr Helen Scharfman

Dr. Helen Scharfman completed her doctoral training in the Department of Pharmacology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland and her postdoctoral training in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. She was a Research Associate in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the State University of Stony Brook before starting her own laboratory at Helen Hayes Hospital and Columbia University in 1991. In 2007, she moved her laboratory to the Nathan Kline Institute, and her primary appointment was moved to New York University Grossman School of Medicine, where she is Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychiatry, and Physiology & Neuroscience.

Dr. Scharfman’s primary research interests include the mechanisms underlying neuronal excitability and neuronal plasticity, neuroendocrinology, and neurogenesis. The emphasis of the laboratory is to understand the basic mechanisms of normal function in order to better address dysfunction — i.e., in neurological disorders and psychiatric illness. An area of long-standing interest has been the hippocampus and adjacent brain regions, so there has been an emphasis on learning disorders, as well as epilepsy.

Dr. Scharfman has contributed broadly in basic and translational neuroscience. She has served on numerous advisory boards for national and international organizations, such as the American Epilepsy Society, the Epilepsy Foundation, Citizens United for Research on Epilepsy, and Parents Against Childhood Epilepsy. She has also served as a reviewer for NIH, NSF, and many international funding organizations. She has been continuously R01-funded by NIH since starting her laboratory. She has served on the editorial boards of Epilepsia and Epilepsy Research, and is currently on the editorial boards of Epilepsy and Behavior, Open Access Endocrinology, Frontiers in Neuroscience – Neurogenesis, Brain Structure & Function, and Epilepsy Research & Treatment, and reviews ad hoc for over 40 neuroscience journals. She was named the NYS Department of Health Employee of the Year in 2006 for establishing a research center at Helen Hayes Hospital to promote translational research. She has published over 100 articles and edited or co-edited 5 books.

Select Publications

  • Hilar Mossy Cells and Dentate Gyrus Function (NIMH R01 MH109305):
    • Scharfman HE (2018) Controlling learning and epilepsy together. Science. 359(6377):740-741. PMID: 29449476.
    • Scharfman HE (2016) The enigmatic mossy cells of the dentate gyrus. Nat Rev Neurosci. 17(9):562-575. PMID: 27466143.
    • Botterill JJ, Khlaifia A, Walters BJ, Brimble MA, Scharfman HE, Arruda-Carvalho M. Off-Target Expression of Cre-Dependent Adeno-Associated Viruses in Wild-Type C57BL/6J Mice. eNeuro. 2021 Nov 24;8(6):ENEURO.0363-21.2021. PMID: 34785571.
    • Botterill JJ, Gerencer KJ, Vinod KY, Alcantara-Gonzalez D, Scharfman HE. Dorsal and ventral mossy cells differ in their axonal projections throughout the dentate gyrus of the mouse hippocampus. Hippocampus. 2021 May;31(5):522-539. PMID: 33600026.
    • Botterill JJ, Vinod KY, Gerencer KJ, Teixeira CM, LaFrancois JJ, Scharfman HE. Bidirectional Regulation of Cognitive and Anxiety-like Behaviors by Dentate Gyrus Mossy Cells in Male and Female Mice. J Neurosci. 2021 Mar 17;41(11):2475-2495. PMID: 33472828.
    • Botterill JJ, Lu YL, LaFrancois JJ, Bernstein HL, Alcantara-Gonzalez D, Jain S, Leary P, Scharfman HE. An Excitatory and Epileptogenic Effect of Dentate Gyrus Mossy Cells in a Mouse Model of Epilepsy. Cell Rep. 2019 Nov 26;29(9):2875-2889.e6. PMID: 31775052.
    • Bernstein HL, Lu YL, Botterill JJ, Scharfman HE. Novelty and Novel Objects Increase c-Fos Immunoreactivity in Mossy Cells in the Mouse Dentate Gyrus. Neural Plast. 2019 Aug 27;2019:1815371. PMID: 31534449.
  • Diverse Roles of Adult Dentate Gyrus Neurogenesis (NINDS R01 NS081203):
    • Drew LJ, Kheirbek MA, Luna VM, Denny CA, Cloidt MA, Wu MV, Jain S, Scharfman HE, Hen R (2016) Activation of local inhibitory circuits in the dentate gyrus by adult-born neurons. Hippocampus. 26(6):763-78. PMID: 26662922.
    • Iyengar SS, LaFrancois JJ, Friedman D, Drew LJ, Denny CA, Burghardt NS, Wu MV, Hsieh J, Hen R, Scharfman HE (2015) Suppression of adult neurogenesis increases the acute effects of kainic acid. Exp Neurol. 264:135-49. PMID: 25476494.
  • Hyperexcitability in Alzheimer’s Disease (NIA R01 AG055328):
    • Kam K, Duffy AM, Moretto J, LaFrancois JJ, Scharfman HE (2016) Interictal spikes during sleep are an early defect in the Tg2576 mouse model of β-amyloid neuropathology. Sci Rep 6:20119. PMID: 26818394.
    • Alcantara-Gonzalez D, Chartampila E, Criscuolo C, Scharfman HE. Early changes in synaptic and intrinsic properties of dentate gyrus granule cells in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology and atypical effects of the cholinergic antagonist atropine. Neurobiol Dis. 2021 May;152:105274. PMID: 33484828.
  • BDNF and Hippocampal Excitability (NINDS R01 NS037562):
    • Scharfman HE, MacLusky NJ (2014) Differential regulation of BDNF, synaptic plasticity and sprouting in the hippocampal mossy fiber pathway of male and female rats. Neuropharmacology. 76 Pt C:696-708. PMID: 23660230.
  • The Role of CA2 in Epilepsy and Social Comorbidity (NINDS R01 NS106983):
    • Whitebirch AC, LaFrancois JJ, Jain S, Leary P, Santoro B, Siegelbaum SA, Scharfman HE. Enhanced excitability of the hippocampal CA2 region and its contribution to seizure activity in a mouse model of temporal lobe epilepsy. Neuron. 2022 Aug 10. PMID: 35987207.