Abigail Polter Abigail Polter
Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology

Office Phone: 202-994-8172
Email: Email
Department: Pharmacology and Physiology


  • Bachelor of Arts, Ohio Wesleyan University, 2005
  • PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2010


Abby got her bachelor's degree in Microbiology from Ohio Wesleyan University and her doctorate in Neurobiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her thesis research focused on cellular signaling mechanisms in animal models of mood disorders. Following graduate school, Abby completed a postdoc in Dr. Julie Kauer's lab at Brown University. Her postdoctoral research focused on long-lasting effects of acute stress on inhibitory synapses in the ventral tegmental area. In 2017, she moved to DC to open her lab focused on mechanisms of acute and chronic stress across the lifespan at George Washington University.


Research in the Polter lab is focused on the neurobiological effects of stressful and adverse experiences. Our goal is to understand the mechanisms of stress-induced changes in synapses and circuits. We are particularly interested in synaptic regulation of neurons that produce monoamines-neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin that are important modulators of affective and reward-related behavior. We use slice electrophysiology, coupled with retrograde tracers and viral-mediated optogenetics, and fiber photometry to identify and characterize circuit-specific alterations in synaptic plasticity and function following stress. We then use in vivo chemogenetics and pharmacology to reverse stress-induced neurobiological changes and maladaptive behavioral responses. 


NIH R01MH122712                                                 Polter                                     05/15/20-02/28/25
VTA microcircuit dynamics during chronic stress
NIH R01MH122712-03S1                                       Polter                                     05/15/20-02/28/25
Supplement to VTA microcircuit dynamics during chronic stress


2021              Margaret Q. Landenberger Foundation Research Award
2019-2021     NARSAD Young Investigator Award, Brain and Behavior Research Foundation
2015-2020     NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence award
2015              Travel Award, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting
2014-2016     Brain and Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator Award


Cardiac, Pulmonary, Renal module (Medical curriculum)
               Facilitator    “Autonomics Workshop”
Brain and Behavior module (Medical curriculum)
Lecturer-       “Antiepileptics”

                      “Treatment for migraine
Facilitator     “Drug Ads”
Pharm/Phys/Clinical Medicine (PA curriculum)
Lecturer-       “Antiepileptics”
                      “Treatment for migraine
Foundations of Experimental Neuroscience (NRSC 8284)
Lecturer-       “Inhibition in the CNS”
Molecular Pharmacology &Neurobiology of Excitable Tissues MMED 8281
Lecturer-       “GABAA Receptor Pharmacology”
Ethics and Grant Writing BMSC 8217
Lecturer-       “Science and Society”

Centers and Institutes


Industry Relationships and Collaborations

This faculty member (or a member of their immediate family) has reported a financial interest with the health care related companies listed below. These relations have been reported to the University and, when appropriate, management plans are in place to address potential conflicts.

  • None