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Karen Wilcox

Karen Wilcox, PhD

Distinguished Professor and Chair, Pharmacology and Toxicology

Distinguished Professor and Chair, Pharmacology and Toxicology


Office: 201 Skaggs Hall


  • B.A. 1981, Allegheny College
  • Ph.D. 1993, University of Pennsylvania

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Research Interests

The Wilcox laboratory is interested in understanding basic mechanisms underlying epileptogenesis, seizure generation, and therapy-resistance to anticonvulsant drugs. To achieve these goals, we use electrophysiological, calcium imaging, pharmacological, behavioral, genetic, immunoblot, and immunohistochemical techniques in a variety of in vitro preparations and animal models of epilepsy. Our working hypothesis is that insight into disease-induced changes in neuronal and glial function will provide new avenues for therapeutic interventions in patients at risk for developing epilepsy or those patients who are refractory to current treatment options. To that end, I am also the Director the Anticonvulsant Development (ADD) Program and evaluate proprietary investigational compounds through a contract with NINDS at the National Institutes of Health to determine antiseizure and disease modifying potential.

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Karen Wilcox lab - Graduate Students

Ashley Zachery-Savella

MD / PhD Program, Neuroscience PhD Program

Karen Wilcox Lab

Research Interests: Seizure Dynamotypes, Pharmacology in Epilepsy, Epilepsy Animal Models, Clinical Epilepsy

Undergraduate School: University of Maryland, College Park

Jeffrey Mensah

Dissertation Project: A pharmacokinetic and efficacy study of a relevant combination therapy in a mouse model of Dravet SyndromeDissertation Project: A pharmacokinetic and efficacy study of a relevant combination therapy in a mouse model of Dravet Syndrome

Dravet Syndrome (DS) is a rare but catastrophic infantile-onset genetic epilepsy characterized by febrile and spontaneous seizures with significant comorbidities. The use of monotherapies do fail to provide adequate seizure control in patients; thus, combination therapies have become important. However, there is a limited understanding of drug-drug interactions of antiseizure polytherapy, impeding therapy decision-making. This study utilizes a DS mouse model and a standard-of-care therapeutic approach as a proof-of-principle study to provide an essential drug discovery platform to inform future preclinical studies for new investigational compounds.

Undergraduate School: University of Ghana (MPhil; BSc Biochemistry)

Faculty Mentor: Karen Wilcox, PhD

2022-2023 Gehlert Fellow

2021-2022 Skaggs Fellow

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Kaliana Veros

Neuroscience PhD Student

Neuroscience PhD Student

Dissertation: Cell-type-specific adaptations in the dorsal striatum of habitual cocaine-seeking behavior

My research involves the study of cell-type-specific adaptations in the dorsal striatum of habitual cocaine-seeking behavior. Excitatory synaptic function and plasticity following prolonged cocaine administration is likely contributing to the induction of behavioral states underlying habitual control of behavior.  It is hypothesized that better understanding of excitatory synaptic transmission in the context of addiction will pave the way for therapeutic targets for novel treatments. 

Faculty Mentors: Kristen Keefe, PhD and Karen Wilcox, PhD  


Carena Cornelssen

Biomedical Engineering PhD Student

Dissertation Project: Development of focused ultrasound (FUS) approaches to modify neural circuits underlying seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE).

Carena's research focuses on FUS, which is a promising noninvasive technology that can be used for therapeutic purposes by ablating tissue or modulating neural circuit function. FUS could be used to reduce seizure frequency for the one-third of people with drug-resistant epilepsy that may not opt for surgery or may not be a good candidate for surgery.

Undergraduate School: The Pennsylvania State University (BS Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management)

Faculty Mentor: Karen Wilcox, PhD






Qwynn Landfield

Neuroscience PhD Student

Dissertation: Changes in structure and function of NG2-Glia during viral encephalitis

Theiler’s Murine Encephalomyelitis Virus (TMEV) is used to model virally induced seizures and epilepsy in mice. NG2-glia, also known as oligodendrocyte precursor cells, may contribute to the clearance of virus from the brain and may also contribute to seizure burden during acute infection. I am studying the synapses formed between NG2-glia and neurons, as well as the phagocytic activity of NG2-glia, in response to TMEV infection.

Undergraduate School: SUNY New Paltz

Faculty Mentor: Karen Wilcox, PhD



Post Doctoral Researchers

Lakshmini Balachandar (Mini), PhD

I am a postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Karen Wilcox's lab with a background in glial biology, neuroscience, and biomedical engineering. I am currently investigating the mechanisms of microgliosis, microglial responses to damage cues and their alteration in epilepsy and health, using a mouse model of viral infection-induced epilepsy.

Post-Doc: Wilcox Lab

Phone: 305-799-7102

Office: SMBB 4800

Florida International University, PhD Biomedical Engineering


Alexandra Petrucci, PhD



E. Jill Dahle

Lab Manager