Dr. Sonya Bierbower Photo

Dr. Sonya Bierbower

Associate Professor



Sonya Bierbower is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Life Science. Dr. Bierbower graduated with a B.S. in Biology from the University of Georgia and as an undergraduate, she was involved in research in areas of motor task learning behavior and protein purification. At DePaul University, she completed a thesis master’s degree with Highest Distinction, which focused on the pathophysiology of parasite/host relationships. At the University of Kentucky, Dr. Bierbower’s doctorate research focused on environmental and physiological effects on synaptic transmission and neural circuitry. While at UK, Dr. Bierbower was awarded the Gertrude Flora Ribble Graduate Fellowship, the teaching excellence award, travel fellowships and numerous conference presentation awards. After completion of her PhD, she conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, where she used a mouse model to study the augmentation of the KCNQ potassium channel in a stroke-induced brain injury. While at UTHSCSA, Dr. Bierbower was awarded a NIH T32 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and a NRSA F32 Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Ongoing Research Projects

The Bierbower research group will focus on the autonomic response and effects on neural circuitry in invertebrate model organisms. 

Publications & Presentations

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Wagers, M., Starks, A., Nadolski, J., Bierbower, S.M., Altenburg, S., Schryer, B., Cooper, R. (2023).  Examining the effect of iron (ferric) on physiological processes:  Invertebrate models. Comp Biochem and Physiology, Part C. doi:10.1016/j.cbpc.2024.109856.

Zamora, M.F and Bierbower, S.M. (2020). Understanding the Underlying Neuroprotective Role of Estrogen in TBI Neuropathophysiology. Arch Clin Case Stud. 2(2): ACCS.MS.ID.000534. DOI: 10.33552/ACCS.2020.02.000534.

Saelinger, C.M, McNabb, M.C., McNair, R., Bierbower, S.M. and Cooper, R.L.  (2019)  Effects of bacterial endotoxin on regulation of the heart, a sensory-CNS-motor nerve circuit and neuromuscular junctions: Crustacean model.  Comp Biochem and Physiology, Part A.  doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2019.110557

Perchuk, A., Bierbower, S.M., Canseco-Alba, A., Zoila, M., Tyrell, L., Joshi, N., Schanz, N., Gould, G., and Onaivi, E.S.  (2018). Developmental and behavioral effects in neonatal and adult mice following prenatal activation of endocannabinoid receptors by capsaicin. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica.  Jul 10:  PMID 29991708.  doi: 10.1038/s41401-018-0073-z.

Choveau, F., Bierbower, S.M., Zhang, J., De la Rosa, V., Hernandez, C., and Shapiro, M. (2018).    Phosphatidylinositol 4,5-Bisphosphate (PIP2) regulates KCNQ3 K+ channels by interacting with four cytoplasmic channel domains.  J. Biol Chem. 293(50):19411-19428. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.005401.  PMID:  30348901.  DOI: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.005401.

Kopp, D.A., Bierbower, S.M., Murphy, A.D., Frye, K., Mormann, K. and Sparkes, T.S. (2016) Parasite-related modification of mating behavior and refuge use in the aquatic isopod Caecidotea intermedius: neurological correlates. Behavior153: 947-961.

Choveau, F., Zhang, J., Bierbower, S.M., Sharma, R. and Shapiro, M.S. (2015).  The role of the carboxy terminus helix C-D linker in regulating KCNQ3 K+ current amplitudes by controlling channel trafficking. PLoS ONE.  December Volume 10 (12); e0145367. 

Weng, HU., Patel, KN., Jeske, NA., Bierbower, S.M., Zou, W., Tiwari, T., Zheng, Q., Tang, T., Gary C.H. Mo6,Yan Wang, Geng, Y., Zhang, J., Guan, Y., Akopian, A., Dong, X. (2015). Tmem100 is a regulator of TRPA1-RPV1 complex and contributes to persistent pain. Neuron. Feb 18;85(4):833-46. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.12.065. Epub 2015 Jan 29

Bierbower, S.M., Choveau, F., Lechleiter, J. and Shapiro, M.S. (2015) Augmentation of M-type (KCNQ) potassium channels as a novel strategy to reduce stroke-induced brain injury.  J. Neurosci., Feb 4;35(5):2101-11. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3805-14.2015.  PMID: 25653366

Rowan, M., Bierbower, S.M., Eskander, M.A., Por, E.D., Gomez, R., Veldhgius, N., Bunnett, N.W. and Jeske, N.  (2014)   Activation of mu opioid receptros sensitizes transient receptor potential valilloid type 1 (TRPV1) via B-arrestin-2-mediated cross-talk. PLoS One. Apr 2;9(4):e93688. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093688. eCollection.

Bierbower, S.M., J. Nadolski, Cooper R.L.  (2013) Sensory Systems and Environmental Change on Behavior during social interaction.  Intl. J. of Zoology. Article ID 573802, http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/573802

Bierbower, S.M., Cooper R.L.  (2013) The mechanistic action of carbon dioxide on a neural circuit and NMJ communication.  J. Exp Zool A Ecol Genet Physiol. 2013 Jul;319(6):340-54. doi: 10.1002/jez.1798. Epub 2013 Apr 29.

Bierbower, S.M., Shapiro, M.S. (2013) Förster resonance energy transfer-based imaging at the cell surface of live cells.  In:  Ion Channels.  Methods Mol Biol., (998): 209-16.

Bierbower, S.M., Shuranova, Z. P., Cooper, R.L. (2013)   Comparative Study of Environmental Factors Influencing Motor Task Learning and Memory Retention in Blind and Sighted Crayfish. Brain and Behavior 3(1): 4–13.

Por, E., Bierbower, S.M., Berg, K., Gomez, R., Akopian, A., and Jeske, N. (2012) β-arrestin-2 mediates TRPV1 desensitization via scaffolding of phosphodiesterase PDE4D5J. Biol Chem287 (44): 37552-63.

Choveau, F., Bierbower, S.M. and Shapiro, M.S (2012) Pore Helix-S6 Interactions Are Critical in Governing Current Amplitudes of KCNQ3 K+ Channels.  Biophysical J.  102 (11); 2499-50.

Choveau, F., Bierbower, S.M. Hernandez, C. and Shapiro, M.S (2012) Pore determinants of KCNQ3 K+ Current expression.  Biophysical J. 102 (11); 2489-98

Zhang, J., Bal, M., Zaika, O., Bierbower, S.M., Shapiro, M.S. (2011) AKAP79/150 signal complexes in G-protein modulation of neuronal ion channels.  J. Neurosci. 31; 7199-7211.

Bierbower, S.M., Cooper R.L.  (2010). The effects of acute carbon dioxide on behavior and physiology in Procambarus clarkii. J. Exp. Zoology, (313A) 484–497.

Bierbower, S.M., Cooper R.L.  (2009). Measures of heart and ventilatory rates in freely moving crayfish. JoVE. 32. http://www.jove.com/index/details.stp?id=1594, doi: 10.3791/1594.

Bierbower, S.M., Sparkes T.C.  (2007) Parasite-related success in an intermediate host, Caecidotea intermedius (Isopoda): effects of male behavior and reproductive physiology.  J. Parasitol. 93 (3): 445-449.


Bierbower, S.M. * M-Type K+ Channels:  Neuroprotection during ischemic stroke and traumatic brain injury.  Cognitive Science Honors Symposium.  Wayne, NJ, September 2021. (oral)

Bierbower, Sonya M*, Zamora, Maria F, Lui Qing-Rong2, Emmanuel, Onaivi1, Canseco-Alba, Ana1.   The role of cannabinoid 2 receptor in modulating microglia activation after a traumatic brain injury. International Behavior and Neuroscience Society Meeting.  Remote. June 2020.  (poster)

Robin L. Cooper1 *, Micaiah McNabb1, Christa Saelinger1, Carly Ballinger Boone1, Abigail Greenhalgh1, Oscar Istas1, Maddie Stanback1, and Alex Stanback1, Ogechi Anyagaligbo1, Jate Bernard1, Melody L. Danley1, Sonya M. Bierbower2, Adam Ghoweri3, and Olivier Thibault3.  The Effects of Bacterial Endotoxin (LPS) on Neural Function in Various Animal Models.  Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting.  October 2019. (poster)

E. S. Onaivi1*, A. Canseco-Alba1, B. D. Sanabria1, T. Rohani1, M. Zamora1, S. Angarita1, S. Gomez1, J. Louis1, J. Bejarano1, S. Sgro1, P. Tagliaferro1, K. Martin1, S. Bierbower1, H. Ishiguro2, Q.-R. Liu3.  Behavioral modifications and alcohol preference following deletion of type 2 cannabinoid receptors in dopamine neurons and microglia.  Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting.  October 2019. (poster)

Bierbower, S.M*.  The role of cannabinoid 2 receptor in modulating microglia activation after a traumatic brain injury.  International Neurotrauma Society Annual Meeting.  Pittsburgh, PA.  June 2019.  (poster)

Cooper1*, RL., McNabb1, M., Saelinger1, C., Greenhalgh1, A., Istas1, O., Stanback1, M.and Stanback1, A., Anyagaligbo1, O., Bernard1, J., Danley1, ML, Bierbower2, SM., Ghoweri3, A., and Olivier Thibault3 O. The Effects of Bacterial Endotoxin (LPS) on Cardiac and Neural Function in Various Animal Models.  Experimental Biology Annual Conference.  Orlando, FL, April 2019. (poster)

Saelinger, C.M. *, McNabb, M.C., McNair, R., Bierbower, S.M., Cooper, R.L.  Effects of bacterial endotoxin LPS on the neuronal regulation of the heart, a sensory-CNS-motor nerve circuit as well as at neuromuscular junctions:  Crustacean model.  Bluegrass Neuroscience Meeting.  Lexington, KY.  April 2019. (poster)

Zamora, M. and Bierbower, S.M.*  Identifying Neuroprotective In Vivo Targets after a Traumatic Brain Injury. International Behavioral Neuroscience Society Annual meeting.  Boca Raton, FL.  June 2018. (poster)