Research Profile:

Broadly stated, my laboratory is interested in studying the manner in which experience shapes the structure and function of the brain and, in turn, how these alterations affect behavior. Given that experience can take many forms, it should not be surprising that morphological and functional changes also exhibit varied patterns. For example, it has recently been reported that motor skill learning is accompanied by increases in the density of Purkinje cell synapses in the cerebellum of the rat. In contrast, exercise, in the absence of learning, produces increases in the density of capillary innervation of the cerebellum. My laboratory is interested in how these plastic changes, individually and in concert, facilitate behavioral adaptation. Our research focuses on changes in motor systems, particularly the cerebellum and motor cortex, associated with motor skill acquisition and repetitive motor activity (exercise).

Current projects in the lab fall into two separate but related categories. The first category examines the relationship between motor activity and plasticity of vascular and synaptic networks of the brain. The work also addresses the impact that these plastic changes have on the learning process. The second research category explores the nature of cerebellar contributions to higher cognitive function. Of particular interest is the manner in which cognition is degraded following ablation of the cerebellum and how manipulations of both behavior and brain morphology can begin to reverse these degradative changes.


Baruch, D.E., Swain, R.A., & Helmstetter, F.J. (2004). Effects of exercise on Pavlovian fear conditioning. Behavioral Neuroscience, 118, 1123-1127.

Noblett, K.L. & Swain, R.A. (2003). Pretraining enhances recovery from visuospatial deficit following cerebellar dentate nucleus lesion. Behavioral Neuroscience, 117, 785-798.

Swain, R.A., Harris, A.B., Wiener, E.C., Dutka, M.V., Morris, H.D., Theien, B.E., Konda, S., Engberg, K., Lauterbur, P.C., & Greenough, W.T. (2003). Prolonged exercise induces angiogenesis and increases cerebral blood volume in primary motor cortex of the rat. Neuroscience, 117, 1037-1046.

Bauer, D.J., Christenson, T.J., Clark, K.R., Powell, S.K., & Swain, R.A. (2003). Acetaminophen as a post-surgical analgesic in rats: A practical solution to neophobia. Contemporary Topics, 42, 19-24.

Swain, R.A. (2002). Reinforcement or Reward in Learning: Cerebellum. In J.H. Byrne, H. Eichenbaum, H. Roediger III, & R.F. Thompson (Eds.), Learning and memory. Farmingham Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA.

Churchill, J.D., Galvez, R., Colcombe, S., Swain, R.A., Kramer, A.F., & Greenough, W.T. (2002). Exercise, experience and the aging brain. Neurobiology of Aging, 23, 941-955.

Irwin, S.A., Idupulapati, M., Gilbert, M.E., Harris, J.B., Chakravarti, A.B., Rogers, E.J., Crisostomo, R.A., Larsen, B.P., Mehta, A., Alcantara, C.J., Patel, B., Swain, R.A., Weiler, I.J., Oostra, B.A., & Greenough, W.T. (2002). Dendritic spine and dendritic field characteristics of layer V pyramidal neurons in the visual cortex of fragile-X knockout mice. American Journal of Medical Genetics, 111, 140-146.

Bahl, R., Bradley, K.C., Thompson, K.J., Swain, R.A., Rossie, S., & Meisel, R.L. (2001). Localization of protein Ser/Thr phosphatase 5 in rat brain. Molecular Brain Research, 90, 101-109.

Irwin, S.A., Patel, B., Idupulapati, M., Harris, J.B., Crisostomo, R.A., Larsen, B.P., Kooy, F., Willems, P.J., Cras, P., Kozlowski, P.B., Swain, R.A., Weiler, I.J., & Greenough, W.T. (2001). Abnormal dendritic spine characteristics in the temporal and visual cortices of patients with Fragile-X Syndrome: A quantitative examination. American Journal of Medical Genetics, 98, 161-167.

Thompson, R.F., Swain, R., Clark, R., & Shinkman, P. (2000). Intracerebellar conditioning: Brogden and Gantt revisited. Behavioural Brain Research, 110, 3-11.

Irwin, S.A., Swain, R.A., Christmon, C.A., Chakravarti, A.,, Weiler, I.J., & Greenough, W.T. (2000). Evidence for altered Fragile-X mental retardation protein expression in response to behavioral stimulation. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 73, 87-93.

Swain, R.A., Shinkman, P.G., Thompson, J.K., Grethe, J.S., & Thompson, R.F. (1999). Essential neuronal pathways for reflex and conditioned response initiation in an intracerebellar stimulation paradigm. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 71, 167-193.

Swain, R.A., Wilson, G.F., & Palmer, B. (1999). Topographic and event-related potential correlates of task type and task difficulty. United States Air Force Research Laboratory Technical Report, AFRL-HE-WP-TR-1999-0180, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, USAF.

Klintsova, A.Y., Cowell, R.M., Swain, R.A., Napper, R.M.A., Goodlett, C.R., & Greenough, W.T. (1998). Therapeutic effects of complex motor training on motor performance deficits induced by neonatal binge-like alcohol exposure in rats: I. Behavioral results. Brain Research, 800, 48-61.

Kleim, J.A., Swain, R.A., Armstrong, K.A., Napper, R.M.A., Jones, T.A., & Greenough, W.T. (1998). Selective synaptic plasticity within the cerebellar cortex following complex motor skill learning. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 69, 274-289.

Kleim, J.A., Swain, R.A., Czerlanis, C.M., Kelly, J., Pipitone, M.A., & Greenough, W.T. (1997). Learning-dependent dendritic hypertrophy of cerebellar stellate cells: Plasticity of local circuit neurons. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 67, 29-33.

Greenough, W.T., Swain, R.A., Kleim, J.A., & Weiler, I.J. (1996). Are experience-induced morphological changes reflected in brain physiology? In M. Ito & Y. Miyahita (Eds.), Integrative and molecular approaches to brain function. New YorK, NY: Elsevier.

Shinkman, P.G., Swain, R.A., & Thompson, R.F. (1996). Classical conditioning with electrical stimulation of cerebellum as both conditioned and unconditioned stimulus. Behavioral Neuroscience, 110, 914-921.

Backs, R.W., Ryan, A.M., Wilson, G.F., & Swain, R.A. (1996). Topographic EEG changes across single-to-dual task performance of mental arithmetic and tracking. Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society.

Swain, R.A., Armstrong, K.E., Comery, T.A., Humphreys, A.G., Jones, T.A., Kleim, J.A., & Greenough, W.T. (1995). Speculations on the fidelity of memories stored in synaptic connections. In D.L. Schacter, J.T. Coyle, G.D. Fischbach, M.M. Mesulam, & L.E. Sullivan (Eds.), Memory distortion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wilson, G.F., Swain, R.A., & Davis, I. (1994). Topographical analysis of event-related potentials during a variable demand spatial processing task. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 65, 54-61.

Maren, S., DeCola, J.P., Swain, R.A., Fanselow, M.S., & Thompson, R.F. (1994). Parallel augmentation of hippocampal long-term potentiation, theta-rhythm, and contextual fear conditioning in water-deprived rats. Behavioral Neuroscience, 108, 44-56.

Greenough, W.T., Armstrong, K.E., Comery, T.A., Hawrylak, N., Humphreys, A.G., Kleim, J., Swain, R.A., & Wang, X. (1994). Plasticity-related changes in synapse morphology. In A.I. Selverston & P. Ascher (Eds.), Cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying higher neural functions. New York: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Swain, R.A., & Thompson, R.F. (1993). In search of engrams. In F.M Crinella & J. Yu (Eds.), Brain Mechanisms: Papers in memory of Robert Thompson. New York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Oliver, C.G., Swain, R.A., & Berry, S.D. (1993). Hippocampal plasticity during jaw movement conditioning in the rabbit. Brain Research, 608, 150-154.

Swain, R.A., Shinkman, P.G., Nordholm, A.F., & Thompson, R.F. (1992). Cerebellar stimulation as an unconditioned stimulus in classical conditioning. Behavioral Neuroscience, 106, 739-750.

Berry, S.D., & Swain, R.A. (1989). Water deprivation optimizes hippocampal activity and facilitates nictitating membrane conditioning. Behavioral Neuroscience, 103, 71-76.


Rodney A. Swain
B.S. Eastern Kentucky University
M.A. Miami University
Ph.D. University of Southern California
Associate Professor
Experimental Psychology

David J. Bauer
B.A. Hope College
Graduate Student
Experimental Psychology

Angela M. Sikorski
B.A. University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
M.S. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Graduate Student
Experimental Psychology

Graduate Alumni:

Kurtis L. Noblett
B.A. University of Colorado
M.S. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Chicago

Stephanie K. Powell
B.A. University of Notre Dame
M.S. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins University

Kenira J. Thompson
B.A. Interamerican University of Puerto Rico
M.S. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Texas at San Antonio

Current undergraduates in the Lab:

Andrew Reindl
Ed Stinson
Yusen Sun
Dana Troullier

Undergraduate Alumni:

Tracy Allman
Anna Berg
Lori Bravi
David Briere
Sarah Buelow
Steven Bulinski
T. Jay Christenson
Kirpal Clark
Peter Clark
Andrew Clithero
Monica Cloutier
Catherine Cook
Margaret Cowles
Jacob Eisen
Paul Engevold
Joe Fitz
Rachel Fuerstenberg
Joe Gaffke
Bill Gross
Paul Hagert
Josh Halonen
Gerald Jorgenson
Josephine Kim
Erica Kloehn
Jessica Krzykowski
Andrew Langdon
Shannon Miller
Tim Miller
Rich Nalbert
Joeylynn Nawtocki
Joshua Papia
Elizabeth Pickett
Amy Podsobinski
Candice Ponchaud
April Moore
Andrea Mueller
Dan Sass
Dave Schema
Melissa Schoner
Dinae Schmerling
Julie Schmitz
Michael Schram
Kelly Schroeder
Charity Schwingle
Doug Scicero
Drew Sievila
Johnathan Simmons
Jason Smith
Jay Soli
Anna Thornton
Eugene Velednitsky
Chris VonBriesen

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