Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Otago Medical School staff profiles

Dr Mick Watt

PositionResearch Fellow
DepartmentDepartment of Anatomy
QualificationsBSc(Hons 1) PhD
Research summaryStress-induced disruption of neurocircuitry mediating cognition and emotion
TeachingInterests in neuropharmacology; animal behaviour; evolutionary zoology; comparative anatomy and physiology
Memberships
  • 2019-current Member of the Neuroscience Research Group Steering Committee (deputy publicity representative) University of Otago Dept of Anatomy
  • 2014-current Member of the USD Center for Brain and Behavior Research (CBBRe)
  • 2014-2015 Chair of the USD Sanford School of Medicine Neuroscience Faculty Search Committee
  • 2012 Member of the USD Sanford School of Medicine Systems Physiology Faculty Search Committee
  • 2011-2018 Member of the USD Sanford School of Medicine Cores Facilities Committee
  • 2011-2012 Chair of the University of South Dakota Medical Student Research Committee
  • 2011-2018 Mentor for the University of South Dakota U. Discover Undergraduate Scholar program
  • 2010-2013 Member of the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine Research Committee
  • 2010-2013 Member of the USD Medical Student Research Committee
  • 2010 Vice chair of the USD Medical Student Summer Research Program Committee
  • 2009-current Member of the “Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN)”, a society for undergraduate neuroscience research and education
  • 2005-current Member of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society
  • 2004-current Member of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology
  • 2001-current Member of the J.B. Johnston Club for Comparative Neuroscience
  • 2001-current Member of the Society for Neuroscience
  • 2019-current Member of the Neuroscience Research Group Steering Committee (deputy publicity representative) University of Otago Department of Anatomy
ClinicalInterests in adolescent psychiatry

Research

I am particularly interested in how exposure to social stress during childhood and adolescence can promote mental illness in later life, and use a rodent model to identify translatable targets for improved pharmacotherapeutic treatment of disorders characterised by deficits in executive function and reward processing.

Additional collaborative translational research investigates how stress-responsive neurocircuitry is negatively affected by factors such as in utero alcohol exposure, drug withdrawal, and mild traumatic brain injury.

I also investigate the neural mechanisms contributing to individual and sex-based variance in social responses, which could be ultimately acted upon by natural and sexual selection to shape evolution of social behaviour. This latter work is carried out through well-established collaborations with other researchers, and employs a wide range comparative models including fish, reptiles, crustaceans and insects.

Specific techniques employed include:

  • Behavioural assays of social interactions, anxiety and fear, motoric activity, drug reward, and executive function
  • Recording of neurotransmitter release using in vivo voltammetry and freely-moving in vivo microdialysis
  • Measurement of neurotransmitter content in brain tissue using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)
  • Measurement of neurotransmitter receptor expression using western immunoblotting
  • Enzyme-linked immunoabsorbance assays (ELISA) to measure central and circulating hormones

Additional details

I also hold the position of Adjunct Associate Professor (Research) in Basic Biomedical Sciences at the University of South Dakota (USD), Vermillion South Dakota USA, where I was employed from 2006-2018.

Publications

Forster, G. L., Anderson, E. M., Scholl, J. L., Lukkes, J. L., & Watt, M. J. (2018). Negative consequences of early-life adversity on substance use as mediated by corticotropin-releasing factor modulation of serotonin activity [Review]. Neurobiology of Stress, 9, 29-39. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2018.08.001

Weber, M. A., Graack, E. T., Scholl, J. L., Renner, K. J., Forster, G. L., & Watt, M. J. (2018). Enhanced dopamine D2 autoreceptor function in the adult prefrontal cortex contributes to dopamine hypoactivity following adolescent social stress. European Journal of Neuroscience, 48(2), 1833-1850. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14019

Sathyanesan, M., Watt, M. J., Haiar, J. M., Scholl, J. L., Davies, S. R., Paulsen, R. T., … Newton, S. S. (2018). Carbamoylated erythropoietin modulates cognitive outcomes of social defeat and differentially regulates gene expression in the dorsal and ventral hippocampus. Translational Psychiatry, 8, 113. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0168-9

Watt, M. J., Weber, M. A., Davies, S. R., & Forster, G. L. (2017). Impact of juvenile chronic stress on adult cortico-accumbal function: Implications for cognition and addiction [Review]. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, 79, 136-154. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2017.06.015

Journal - Research Article

Bubak, A. N., Watt, M. J., Renner, K. J., Luman, A. A., Costabile, J. D., Sanders, E. J., … Swallow, J. G. (2019). Sex differences in aggression: Differential roles of 5-HT2, neuropeptide F and tachykinin. PLoS ONE, 14(1), e0203980. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0203980

Scholl, J. L., Afzal, A., Fox, L. C., Watt, M. J., & Forster, G. L. (2019). Sex differences in anxiety-like behaviors in rats. Physiology & Behavior, 211, 112670. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.112670

Forster, G. L., Anderson, E. M., Scholl, J. L., Lukkes, J. L., & Watt, M. J. (2018). Negative consequences of early-life adversity on substance use as mediated by corticotropin-releasing factor modulation of serotonin activity [Review]. Neurobiology of Stress, 9, 29-39. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2018.08.001

Sathyanesan, M., Watt, M. J., Haiar, J. M., Scholl, J. L., Davies, S. R., Paulsen, R. T., … Newton, S. S. (2018). Carbamoylated erythropoietin modulates cognitive outcomes of social defeat and differentially regulates gene expression in the dorsal and ventral hippocampus. Translational Psychiatry, 8, 113. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0168-9

Weber, M. A., Graack, E. T., Scholl, J. L., Renner, K. J., Forster, G. L., & Watt, M. J. (2018). Enhanced dopamine D2 autoreceptor function in the adult prefrontal cortex contributes to dopamine hypoactivity following adolescent social stress. European Journal of Neuroscience, 48(2), 1833-1850. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14019

Watt, M. J., Weber, M. A., Davies, S. R., & Forster, G. L. (2017). Impact of juvenile chronic stress on adult cortico-accumbal function: Implications for cognition and addiction [Review]. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, 79, 136-154. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2017.06.015

Sathyanesan, M., Haiar, J. M., Watt, M. J., & Newton, S. S. (2017). Restraint stress differentially regulates inflammation and glutamate receptor gene expression in the hippocampus of C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice. Stress, 20(2), 197-204. doi: 10.1080/10253890.2017.1298587

Bray, B., Scholl, J. L., Tu, W., Watt, M. J., Renner, K. J., & Forster, G. L. (2016). Amphetamine withdrawal differentially affects hippocampal and peripheral corticosterone levels in response to stress. Brain Research, 1644, 278-287. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2016.05.030

Novick, A. M., Mears, M., Forster, G. L., Lei, Y., Tejani-Butt, S. M., & Watt, M. J. (2016). Adolescent social defeat alters N-methyl-d-aspartic acid receptor expression and impairs fear learning in adulthood. Behavioural Brain Research, 304, 51-59. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2016.02.013

Solanki, R. R., Scholl, J. L., Watt, M. J., Renner, K. J., & Forster, G. L. (2016). Amphetamine withdrawal differentially increases the expression of organic cation transporter 3 and serotonin transporter in limbic brain regions. Journal of Experimental Neuroscience, 10, 93-100. doi: 10.4137/JEn.s40231

Davies, D. R., Olson, D., Meyer, D. L., Scholl, J. L., Watt, M. J., Manzerra, P., … Forster, G. L. (2016). Mild traumatic brain injury with social defeat stress alters anxiety, contextual fear extinction, and limbic monoamines in adult rats. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 10, 71. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00071

Bubak, A. N., Gerken, A. R., Watt, M. J., Costabile, J. D., Renner, K. J., & Swallow, J. G. (2016). Assessment strategies and fighting patterns in animal contests: A role for serotonin? Current Zoology, 62(3), 257-263. doi: 10.1093/cz/zow040

Bubak, A. N., Rieger, N. S., Watt, M. J., Renner, K. J., & Swallow, J. G. (2015). David vs. Goliath: Serotonin modulates opponent perception between smaller and larger rivals. Behavioural Brain Research, 292, 521-527. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2015.07.028

Novick, A. M., Forster, G. L., Hassell, J. E., Davies, D. R., Scholl, J. L., Renner, K. J., & Watt, M. J. (2015). Increased dopamine transporter function as a mechanism for dopamine hypoactivity in the adult infralimbic medial prefrontal cortex following adolescent social stress. Neuropharmacology, 97, 194-200. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2015.05.032

Tu, W., Cook, A., Scholl, J. L., Mears, M., Watt, M. J., Renner, K. J., & Forster, G. L. (2014). Serotonin in the ventral hippocampus modulates anxiety-like behavior during amphetamine withdrawal. Neuroscience, 281, 35-43. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.09.019

Reinbold, E. D., Scholl, J. L., Oliver, K. M., Watt, M. J., & Forster, G. L. (2014). Central CRF2 receptor antagonism reduces anxiety states during amphetamine withdrawal. Neuroscience Research, 89, 37-43. doi: 10.1016/j.neures.2014.08.010

Li, H., Scholl, J. L., Tu, W., Hassell, J. E., Watt, M. J., Forster, G. L., & Renner, K. J. (2014). Serotonergic responses to stress are enhanced in the central amygdala and inhibited in the ventral hippocampus during amphetamine withdrawal. European Journal of Neuroscience, 40(11), 3684-3692. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12735

Watt, M. J., Roberts, C. L., Scholl, J. L., Meyer, D. L., Miiller, L. C., Barr, J. L., … Forster, G. L. (2014). Decreased prefrontal cortex dopamine activity following adolescent social defeat in male rats: Role of dopamine D2 receptors. Psychopharmacology, 231(8), 1627-1636. doi: 10.1007/s00213-013-3353-9

Bubak, A. N., Grace, J. L., Watt, M. J., Renner, K. J., & Swallow, J. G. (2014). Neurochemistry as a bridge between morphology and behavior: Perspectives on aggression in insects [Review]. Current Zoology, 60(6), 778-790. doi: 10.1093/czoolo/60.6.778

Burke, A. R., Forster, G. L., Novick, A. M., Roberts, C. L., & Watt, M. J. (2013). Effects of adolescent social defeat on adult amphetamine-induced locomotion and corticoaccumbal dopamine release in male rats. Neuropharmacology, 67, 359-369. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.11.013

Novick, A. M., Miiller, L. C., Forster, G. L., & Watt, M. J. (2013). Adolescent social defeat decreases spatial working memory performance in adulthood. Behavioral & Brain Functions, 9, 39. doi: 10.1186/1744-9081-9-39

Barr, J. L., Scholl, J. L., Solanki, R. R., Watt, M. J., Lowry, C. A., Renner, K. J., & Forster, G. L. (2013). Influence of chronic amphetamine treatment and acute withdrawal on serotonin synthesis and clearance mechanisms in the rat ventral hippocampus. European Journal of Neuroscience, 37(3), 479-490. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12050

Novick, A. M., Forster, G. L., Tejani-Butt, S. M., & Watt, M. J. (2011). Adolescent social defeat alters markers of adult dopaminergic function. Brain Research Bulletin, 86, 123-128. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2011.06.009

Burke, A. R., Watt, M. J., & Forster, G. L. (2011). Adolescent social defeat increases adult amphetamine conditioned place preference and alters D2 dopamine receptor expression. Neuroscience, 197, 269-279. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.09.008

Parrish Waters, R., Renner, K. J., Summers, C. H., Watt, M. J., Forster, G. L., Koch, L. G., … Swallow, J. G. (2010). Selection for intrinsic endurance modifies endocrine stress responsiveness. Brain Research, 1357, 53-61. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.07.078

Ling, T. J., Summers, C. H., Renner, K. J., & Watt, M. J. (2010). Opponent recognition and social status differentiate rapid neuroendocrine responses to social challenge. Physiology & Behavior, 99(5), 571-578. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2010.01.025

Burke, A. R., Renner, K. J., Forster, G. L., & Watt, M. J. (2010). Adolescent social defeat alters neural, endocrine and behavioral responses to amphetamine in adult male rats. Brain Research, 1352, 147-156. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.06.062

Carpenter, R. E., Korzan, W. J., Bockholt, C., Watt, M. J., Forster, G. L., Renner, K. J., & Summers, C. H. (2009). Corticotropin releasing factor influences aggression and monoamines: Modulation of attacks and retreats. Neuroscience, 158, 412-425. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.10.014

Scholl, J. L., Feng, N., Watt, M. J., Renner, K. J., & Forster, G. L. (2009). Individual differences in amphetamine sensitization, behavior and central monoamines. Physiology & Behavior, 96, 493-504. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.12.001

Ling, T. J., Forster, G. L., Watt, M. J., Korzan, W. J., Renner, K. J., & Summers, C. H. (2009). Social status differentiates rapid neuroendocrine responses to restraint stress. Physiology & Behavior, 96(2), 218-232. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.10.004

Watt, M. J., Burke, A. R., Renner, K. J., & Forster, G. L. (2009). Adolescent male rats exposed to social defeat exhibit altered anxiety behavior and limbic monoamines as adults. Behavioral Neuroscience, 123(3), 564-576. doi: 10.1037/a0015752

Forster, G. L., Pringle, R. B., Mouw, N. J., Vuong, S. M., Watt, M. J., Burke, A. R., … Renner, K. J. (2008). Corticotropin-releasing factor in the dorsal raphe nucleus increases medial prefrontal cortical serotonin via type 2 receptors and median raphe nucleus activity. European Journal of Neuroscience, 28, 299-310. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06333.x

Carpenter, R. E., Watt, M. J., Forster, G. L., Øverli, Ø., Bockholt, C., Renner, K. J., & Summers, C. H. (2007). Corticotropin releasing factor induces anxiogenic locomotion in trout and alters serotonergic and dopaminergic activity. Hormones & Behavior, 52, 600-611. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.07.012

Watt, M. J., Forster, G. L., Korzan, W. J., Renner, K. J., & Summers, C. H. (2007). Rapid neuroendocrine responses evoked at the onset of social challenge. Physiology & Behavior, 90, 567-575. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.11.006

Korzan, W. J., Höglund, E., Watt, M. J., Forster, G. L., Øverli, Ø., Lukkes, J. L., & Summers, C. H. (2007). Memory of opponents is more potent than visual sign stimuli after social hierarchy has been established. Behavioural Brain Research, 183, 31-42. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2007.05.021

Korzan, W. J., Forster, G. L., Watt, M. J., & Summers, C. H. (2006). Dopaminergic activity modulation via aggression, status, and a visual social signal. Behavioral Neuroscience, 120(1), 93-102. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.120.1.93

Forster, G. L., Feng, N., Watt, M. J., Korzan, W. J., Mouw, N. J., Summers, C. H., & Renner, K. J. (2006). Corticotropin-releasing factor in the dorsal raphe elicits temporally distinct serotonergic responses in the limbic system in relation to fear behavior. Neuroscience, 141, 1047-1055. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2006.04.006

Forster, G. L., Watt, M. J., Korzan, W. J., Renner, K. J., & Summers, C. H. (2005). Opponent recognition in male green anoles, Anolis carolinensis. Animal Behaviour, 69, 733-740. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2004.06.026

Höglund, E., Korzan, W. J., Watt, M. J., Forster, G. L., Summers, T. R., Johannessen, H. F., … Summers, C. H. (2005). Effects of L-DOPA on aggressive behavior and central monoaminergic activity in the lizard Anolis carolinensis, using a new method for drug delivery. Behavioural Brain Research, 156, 53-64. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2004.05.009

Summers, C. H., Forster, G. L., Korzan, W. J., Watt, M. J., Larsen, E. T., Øverli, Ø., … Greenberg, N. (2005). Dynamics and mechanics of social rank reversal. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 191(3), 241-252. doi: 10.1007/s00359-004-0554-z

Parrish Waters, R., Emerson, A. J., Watt, M. J., Forster, G. L., Swallow, J. G., & Summers, C. H. (2005). Stress induces rapid changes in central catecholaminergic activity in Anolis carolinensis: Restraint and forced physical activity. Brain Research Bulletin, 67(3), 210-218. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2005.06.029

Summers, C. H., Korzan, W. J., Watt, M. J., Forster, G. L., Øverli, Ø., Höglund, E., … Greenberg, N. (2005). Does serotonin influence aggression? Comparing regional activity before and during social interaction. Physiological & Biochemical Zoology, 78(5), 679-694. doi: 10.1086/432139

Øverli, Ø., Korzan, W. J., Höglund, E., Winberg, S., Bollig, H., Watt, M., Forster, G. L., … Summers, C. H. (2004). Stress coping style predicts aggression and social dominance in rainbow trout. Hormones & Behavior, 45, 235-241. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2003.12.002

Watt, M. J., Forster, G. L., & Joss, J. M. P. (2003). Steroid correlates of territorial behavior in male jacky dragons, Amphibolurus muricatus. Brain, Behavior & Evolution, 61(4), 184-194. doi: 10.1159/000070702

Summers, C. H., Summers, T. R., Moore, M. C., Korzan, W. J., Woodley, S. K., Ronan, P. J., … Watt, M. J., & Greenberg, N. (2003). Temporal patterns of limbic monoamine and plasma corticosterone response during social stress. Neuroscience, 116(2), 553-563. doi: 10.1016/S0306-4522(02)00708-X

Watt, M. J., & Joss, J. M. P. (2003). Structure and function of visual displays produced by male jacky dragons, Amphibolurus muricatus, during social interactions. Brain, Behavior & Evolution, 61(4), 172-183. doi: 10.1159/000070701

Watt, M., Evans, C. S., & Joss, J. M. P. (1999). Use of electroreception during foraging by the Australian lungfish. Animal Behaviour, 58(5), 1039-1045. doi: 10.1006/anbe.1999.1216

Watt, M. J., & Hales, D. F. (1996). Dwarf phenotype of the cotton aphid, Aphis gossypii glover (Hemiptera: Aphididae). Austral Entomology, 35(2), 153-159. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-6055.1996.tb01380.x

^ Top of page

Journal - Research Other

Bubak, A. N., Watt, M. J., Yaeger, J. D. W., Renner, K. J., & Swallow, J. G. (2020). The stalk-eyed fly as a model for aggression: Is there a conserved role for 5-HT between vertebrates and invertebrates? Journal of Experimental Biology, 223, jeb132159. doi: 10.1242/jeb.132159

Fox, L. C., Davies, D. R., Scholl, J. L., Watt, M. J., & Forster, G. L. (2016). Differential effects of glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid antagonism on anxiety behavior in mild traumatic brain injury [Short communication]. Behavioural Brain Research, 312, 362-365. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2016.06.048

Lukkes, J. L., Watt, M. J., Lowry, C. A., & Forster, G. L. (2009). Consequences of post-weaning social isolation on anxiety behavior and related neural circuits in rodents. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 3, 18. doi: 10.3389/neuro.08.018.2009

Summers, C. H., Watt, M. J., Ling, T. L., Forster, G. L., Carpenter, R. E., Korzan, W. J., … Øverli, Ø. (2005). Glucocorticoid interaction with aggression in non-mammalian vertebrates: Reciprocal action. European Journal of Pharmacology, 526, 21-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2005.09.059

More publications...