Ryan Darling

Ryan Darling

Assistant Professor

Psychological Sciences
Education and Behavioral Sciences

Contact Information

McKee Hall 64
Mailing Address
University of Northern Colorado
Psychological Sciences
Campus Box 94
Greeley, CO 80639


Postdoc - Department of Anatomy, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS

Ph.D. - Department of Psychology, Miami University, Oxford, OH

M.A. - Department of Psychology, Miami University, Oxford, OH

B.A. - Department of Psychology, Miami University, Oxford, OH

Professional/Academic Experience

I was trained as a behavioral neuroscientist at Miami University under Dr. Stephen Berry, where I researched the electrophysiological correlates of rabbit eyeblink classical conditioning. Specifically, I built movable microdrives with multiple tetrode recording electrodes to analyze the response properties of neurons in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex while rabbits learned to associate a neutral tone stimulus with an airpuff to the eye. In addition, I used a brain-computer interface to trigger each trial in the explicit presence of a well-studied hippocampal local field potential termed theta (3-7Hz), which accelerated behavioral learning and the learning-related neural responses.   

As a Postdoctoral Fellow working in the laboratory of Dr. Rick Lin in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), I researched the long-term neurobehavioral effects of perinatal antidepressant exposure in a rodent model of autism spectrum disorder. Specific areas of research focused on incorporating electrophysiological and immunohistochemical techniques to understand how monoaminergic neural systems (including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine) and their forebrain efferents are disrupted by exposure to antidepressants during critical periods of neurodevelopment.

As an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomical Sciences at the UMMC, I concentrated my efforts on the scholarly teaching of gross anatomy and neuroscience to medical students, and on applying my background of learning and memory to pedagogical medical education research. I began using eye tracking to study visual attentive gaze patterns of medical students while answering electronic multiple-choice questions. These questions were either clinical vignette style questions, mimicking USMLE board exams, or content-free testwiseness questions. Medical student education relies heavily on multiple-choice assessments, and I was interested in better understanding to what medical students visually attend, both within the question stem, as well as within answer choices, with the ultimate goal of improving test performance.     

Research/Areas of Interest

I am interested in teaching courses related to behavioral neuroscience, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, learning, memory, sensation, and perception. I apply my background in the neurobiology of learning and memory to my teaching style, evident by repeated assessment and my emphasis on semantic associative learning and metacognition. I have utilized the flipped-classroom approach while teaching Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology to undergraduates as an Adjunct Faculty at Millsaps College in Jackson, MS, and I hope to incorporate those strategies here at the UNC. My objective as a teacher is to continue to approach learning from a student-centered perspective so that I can continue to support students in their academic goals. 

My research interests will continue to focus on learning, memory and pedagogy. I am interested in continuing eye tracking research to better understand expert and implicit visual attentive behavior, and various cognitive attributes such as cognitive load, working memory, and spatial reasoning.    

Publications/Creative Works

Cicchese JJ, Darling RD, Berry SD (2015). Pretrial hippocampal theta-state differentiates single-unit response profiles during rabbit trace eyeblink conditioning. Learning and Memory, 22:318-322.

Zhou X, Lu JYF, Darling RD, Simpson KL, Zhu X, Wang F, Yu L, Sun X, Merzenich M, Lin RCS (2015). Behavioral training reverses global cortical network dysfunction induced by perinatal antidepressant exposure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(7):2233-2238.

Zhang J, Dennis KA, Darling RD, Alzghoul L, Paul IA, Simpson KL & Lin RCS (2013). Neonatal citalopram exposure decreases serotonergic fiber density in the olfactory bulb of male but not female adult rats. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 7(67):1-8.

Bortolato M, Alzghoul L, Zhang J, Darling RD, Simpson KL, Bini V, Chen K, Wellman CL, Lin RCS & Shih JC (2013). Monoamine oxidase A and A/B knockout mice display autistic-like features. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 16:869-888. 

Alzghoul L, Bortolato M, Delis F, Thanos PK, Darling RD, Godar SC, Zhang J, Grant S, Wang GJ, Simpson KL, Chen K, Volkow ND, Lin RCS & Shih JC (2012). Altered cerebellar organization and function in monoamine oxidase A hypomorphic mice. Neuropharmacology 63:1208-1217.

Darling RD, Alzghoul L, Zhang J, Khatri  N, Paul IA, Simpson KL & Lin RCS (2011). Perinatal citalopram exposure selectively increases locus coeruleus circuit function in male rats.  Journal of Neuroscience 31(46):16709-16715.

Zhang J, Darling RD, Paul IA, Simpson KL, Chen K, Shih JC & Lin RCS (2011). Altered expression of tyrosine hydroxylase in the locus coeruleus noradrenergic system in citalopram exposed rats and monoamine oxidase A knockout mice.  Anatomical Record 294(10):1685-1697.

Darling RD, Takatsuki K, Griffin AL & Berry SD (2011). Eyeblink conditioning contingent on hippocampal theta enhances hippocampal and medial prefrontal responses.  Journal of Neurophysiology 105:2213-2224.

Griffin AL, Asaka Y, Darling RD & Berry SD (2004). Theta-contingent trial presentation accelerates learning rate and enhances hippocampal plasticity during trace eyeblink conditioning. Behavioral Neuroscience 118(2):403-411.