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Women's Faculty Cabinet

Cabinet Members - Alice A. Larson

Alice LarsonAlice A. Larson is a professor in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences where she teaches neuropharmacology to veterinary students and has a long-standing research program in neuroscience.  For many years, she has carried out research on pain transmission, examining neurotransmitters in the spinal cord.  More recently, her broad knowledge of pain has led her to investigate mast cells, a type of immune cell that is found in the brain and whose activity is altered under conditions of pain and stress.

Dr. Larson’s interest in serving on the University Faculty Cabinet, and her commitment to women’s issues in general, are tightly bound to her research in neuroscience.  She has discovered that during the stage of the reproductive cycle during which mice mate, the number of mast cells is high specifically in the areas of the brain that are associated with sensory input related to mating.  Mast cell activity thus seems to alter an animal’s sensitivity to pain and touch.  Mast cells are also activated by stress.  Because stress exacerbates several neurological conditions that are common in women, including migraines, depression, and the pain condition fibromyalgia, Dr. Larson’s laboratory is investigating whether some harmful effects of stress may be caused by excessive mast cell activity in the brain.

Dr. Larson graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Biology in 1972 and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology in 1977.  She studied electrophysiological techniques as a postdoctoral associate at the University of Illinois Medical Center until 1978 when she was hired at the University of Minnesota.  She has been a member of a grant review committee at the National Institute of Mental Health (1988-1992) and the Director of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota (1992-1995), and she is currently on the University of Minnesota Senate Judicial Committee.  Dr. Larson is married with two grown children.