Dr. Normandin grew up in Methuen, Massachusetts where he was first inspired to study neuroscience in a high school Psychology class as they reviewed the single chapter on the brain. He went on to receive a B.A. in Biology with a Specialization in Neuroscience from Boston University. During his time at Boston University he worked as an undergraduate research assistant with Dr. Richard Pillard, who studied the behavioral genetics of sexual orientation, and also worked with Dr. Mary Erskine, who studied female sexual behavior in a rat model. These undergraduate research experiences gave him a practical view of the scientific method, and he gained experience in small animal experimental techniques.
After receiving his B.A., Dr. Normandin worked as a research technician at the Center for Morphometric Analysis (CMA) at Massachusetts General Hospital. At the CMA he assisted in the neuroanatomical analysis of MRI brain scans for various research projects. During his time at the CMA his expertise in neuroanatomy was solidified and he was able to contribute to an analysis of white matter volume in those with autism.
Dr. Normandin’s doctoral work, under Dr. Anne Murphy at Georgia State University, explored brain mechanisms of sexual behavior using a rat model. Specifically, they examined the role of descending inhibitory brain pathways in the expression of sexual reflexes in both sexes. The rat nucleus paragigantoceullaris (nPGi) is a brainstem nucleus (with a human homologue) that projects to the motor neuron pools that innervate the pelvic musculature necessary for sexual reflexes. Dr. Normandin conducted lesion experiments that support a role for the nPGi in the natural inhibition of ejaculation in males. He also found that without the nPGi, sexual behavior is not rewarding in females. With tract tracing and immunohistochemistry experiments, Dr. Normandin defined the brain regions that project to the nPGi, and further defined those that express gonadal steroid receptors and are active during sexual behavior, in both sexes. Finally, with a serotonergic lesion experiment, Dr. Normandin found evidence that the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray provides a source of serotonin to the nPGi that, when removed, facilitates ejaculation in males. This result provides an anatomical/functional basis for the oft-reported side effects of inorgasmia in those taking antidepressants that increase serontonin levels in the brain. Taken together, these findings help us to understand the regulation of sexual reflexes in mammals, and may provide treatment targets for sexual dysfunction in people.
Here at GSU, Dr. Normandin is a Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Neuroscience Institute. His teaching style is an energetic mix of lecture, active learning, and collaborative critical thinking. He is also the Assistant Director for the Institute on Neuroscience high school neuroscience education and research summer program and Lead Instructor for The Neuroscience School summer program, both projects of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience. In addition to these roles Dr. Normandin also serves as Chair of GSU’s Atlanta Science Festival events.
Dr. Normandin is also an avid gamer and has saved the universe many times.