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Assistant Professor

Jennifer Hellier, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Departments of Family Medicine and Cell & Development​al Biology

Director of Colorado Health Professions Development Program (CO-HPD)
Deputy Director of Programs
Colorado AHEC Program Office

Jennifer Hellier, Ph.D.

B.S., Biomedical Engineering
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 1992.

M.S., Anatomy and Neurobiology
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 1997.

Ph.D., Anatomy and Neurobiology
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 1999.

Postdoc, Pediatrics and Neurology
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO, 1999-2006.

Research Interest

My long-term research goals are to understand and​ develop new treatments for neurological diseases such as schizophrenia and epilepsy.


Office Location: Education 2 North, Room 5236

Mailing Address:

Mail Stop F433
13120 E. 19th Avenue
Aurora, CO 80045

Phone: 303-724-7865
Fax: 303-724-0891
Email: Jennifer Hellier​​​​​​​​​​​​

The goal of my research is to understand neurological disease (e.g., schizophrenia, seizures, etc.) and how changes in receptor or circuitry contribute to the disease. We use the olfactory system as its layered structure provides well-known inputs and outputs as well as receptor locations. To answer our questions, we utilize interdisciplinary techniques involving mouse genetics, neuroanatomy, olfactory behavioral tests, electrophysiology, awake-behaving recordings, optogenetics, and imaging.

A major focus of my research is the understanding of the mechanisms underlying odor dysfunction in schizophrenia. We use transgenic mice with decreased expression of a7-nicotinic acetylcholine (a7) receptors to determine if these mice show deficits in olfaction that has been identified in schizophrenic patients. In the adult mouse olfactory bulb (OB), a7 expression localizes in the glomerular layer; however, the functional role of a7 is unknown. In 2010, we showed that inbred mouse strains with varying a7 expression in the glomerular layer of the olfactory bulb (e.g., a7 wild-type, a7 heterozygous knock-out, and a7 homozygous knock-out mice) significantly differed in odor discrimination and detection of chemically-related odorant pairs. Our data suggest that a7-nicotinic-receptors contribute strongly to olfactory discrimination and detection in mice and may be one of the mechanisms producing olfactory dysfunction in schizophrenics. To expand these findings, we are currently recording from the mitral cell layer of the olfactory bulb in awake-behaving mice with decreased expression of a7. We are looking at how a7 affects mitral cell firing and/or synchronization following odor stimuli. In the future, we will include optogenetic techniques to isolate certain inputs to the mitral cells and determine how removal of these inputs change firing activity/patterns.


Hellier JL, Arevalo NL, Blatner MJ, Dang AK, Clevenger AC, Adams CE, Restrepo D. Olfactory discrimination varies in mice with different levels of a7-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor expression. Brain Research 2010, 1358:140-150.

White A, Williams PA, Hellier JL, Clark S, Edward Dudek F, Staley KJ. EEG spike activity precedes epilepsy after kainate-induced status epilepticus. Epilepsia 2010, 51(3): 371-383.

Oliva AM, Salcedo E, Hellier JL, Ly X, Koka K, Tollin DJ, Restrepo D. Toward a mouse neuroethology in the laboratory environment. PLoS One. 2010, 5(6):e11359.

Hellier JL, White A, Williams PA, Dudek FE, Staley KJ. NMDA receptor-mediated long-term alterations in epileptiform activity in experimental chronic epilepsy. Neuropharmacology 2009, 56(2):414-421.

Frey LC, Hellier JL, Unkart C, Lepkin A, Hasebroock K, Serkova N, Liang LP, Patel M, Soltesz I, Staley KJ. A novel apparatus for lateral fluid percussion injury in the rat. J Neurosci Methods 2009, 177(2):267-272.

Hellier JL, Grosshans DR, Coultrap SJ, Jones JP, Dobelis P, Browning MD, Staley KJ. NMDA receptor trafficking at recurrent synapses stabilizes the state of the CA3 network. J Neurophys 2007, 98(5):2818-2826. ​


Additional Information:


I am the Program Coordinator of CREATE Health Scholars, a program that helps undergraduate students from rural and under-served areas of Colorado explore health professional careers (medicine, physician assistant, behavioral health, advanced-practice nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, medical research, and public health). The mission of CREATE Health Scholars is to provide a comprehensive program that improves, enhances, and supports pre-health education in rural and urban underserved communities (specifically eastern, western, and southwestern Colorado). This year-long program includes an intensive one-month summer curriculum with the goal of improving the student’s basic educational building blocks of math, science and language arts, as well as providing hands-on training and exposure to health professional careers.

CREATE Health Scholars website