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Hala Nicolas

  • INSTRUCTOR Psychiatry
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  • B.Sc., Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

  • M.A., Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

  • Ph.D., Technion - Israel Institute of Technology


    Dr. Harony-Nicolas is an Instructor at the Department of Psychiatry and a member of the Seaver Autism Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She received her PhD in Molecular Biology at the Technion Institute of Israel in 2008 and completed a first post-doctoral training in the Laboratory of Neurobiology of Social Behavior at the University of Haifa, Israel. In 2011 she joined Dr. Joseph Buxbaum’s Laboratory at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and was promoted to the position of Instructor at the Department of Psychiatry in 2014. Her research aims to understand the mechanisms by which autism spectrum disorder (ASD)-associated mutations lead to the manifestation of behavioral deficits, aiming to identify potential targets for therapeutic treatments.


    Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),  Phelan McDermid Syndrome (PMS),  ASD and PMS animal models, Transgenic rats, Knockout mice, Molecular Neuroscience, Behavioral Neuroscience, Oxytocin, RNA sequencing, Epigenetics


Dr. Harony-Nicolas’s research aims to understand the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using animal models for the disorder, with a long-term goal of revealing potential targets for therapeutic treatments. For this purpose, she is using transgenic ASD rat models and applying behavioral and molecular neuroscience approaches. Dr. Harony-Nicolas recent focus was on characterizing and validating a novel genetically modified rat model for ASD, the Shank3-deficient rats, and demonstrating that the pro-social peptide oxytocin ameliorates behavioral and physiological deficits in this model. In one of her current projects, she is focusing on studying the effect of ASD-associated mutations on the integrity of the oxytocin system, and on assessing the potential of oxytocin treatment, using diverse delivery approaches, to compensate for behavioral deficits and brain activity changes in ASD rat models. In an additional project, she is using genome wide transcriptional analysis (RNAseq technology) to profile expression signatures in the Shank3 and other ASD rat models, aiming to reveal the brain networks disrupted in different ASD monogenic forms, which could be potentially targeted for therapeutic treatments.


Harony-Nicolas H, De Rubeis S, Kolevzon A, Buxbaum JD. Phelan McDermid Syndrome: From Genetic Discoveries to Animal Models and Treatment. Journal of child neurology 2015 Dec; 30(14).

Hsiao K, Nicolas-Harony H, Buxbaum JD, Buzdagi-Gunal O, Benson DL. Cyfip1 regulates presynaptic function during development via WAVE1. The Journal of Neuroscience 2015;.

Uppal N, Puri R, Yuk F, Janssen WG, Bozdagi-Gunal O, Harony-Nicolas H, Dickstein DL, Buxbaum JD, Hof PR. Ultrastructural analyses in the hippocampus CA1 field in Shank3-deficient mice. Molecular autism 2015; 6.

Harony-Nicolas H, Mamrut S, Brodsky L, Shahar-Gold H, Barki-Harrington L, Wagner S. Brain region-specific methylation in the promoter of the murine oxytocin receptor gene is involved in its expression regulation. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2014 Jan; 39.

Poultney CS, Goldberg AP, Drapeau E, Kou Y, Harony-Nicolas H, Kajiwara Y, De Rubeis S, Durand S, Stevens C, Rehnström K, Palotie A, Daly MJ, Ma'ayan A, Fromer M, Buxbaum JD. Identification of small exonic CNV from whole-exome sequence data and application to autism spectrum disorder. American journal of human genetics 2013 Oct; 93(4).

Mamrut S, Harony H, Sood R, Shahar-Gold H, Gainer H, Shi YJ, Barki-Harrington L, Wagner S. DNA methylation of specific CpG sites in the promoter region regulates the transcription of the mouse oxytocin receptor. PloS one 2013; 8(2).

Harony H, Wagner S. The contribution of oxytocin and vasopressin to mammalian social behavior: potential role in autism spectrum disorder. Neuro-Signals 2010; 18(2).

Harony H, Ankri S. What do unicellular organisms teach us about DNA methylation?. Trends in parasitology 2008 May; 24(5).

Harony H, Bernes S, Siman-Tov R, Ankri S. DNA methylation and targeting of LINE retrotransposons in Entamoeba histolytica and Entamoeba invadens. Molecular and biochemical parasitology 2006 May; 147(1).

Lavi T, Isakov E, Harony H, Fisher O, Siman-Tov R, Ankri S. Sensing DNA methylation in the protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica. Molecular microbiology 2006 Dec; 62(5).

Industry Relationships

Physicians and scientists on the faculty of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai often interact with pharmaceutical, device and biotechnology companies to improve patient care, develop new therapies and achieve scientific breakthroughs. In order to promote an ethical and transparent environment for conducting research, providing clinical care and teaching, Mount Sinai requires that salaried faculty inform the School of their relationships with such companies.

Dr. Nicolas did not report having any of the following types of financial relationships with industry during 2015 and/or 2016: consulting, scientific advisory board, industry-sponsored lectures, service on Board of Directors, participation on industry-sponsored committees, equity ownership valued at greater than 5% of a publicly traded company or any value in a privately held company. Please note that this information may differ from information posted on corporate sites due to timing or classification differences.

Mount Sinai's faculty policies relating to faculty collaboration with industry are posted on our website. Patients may wish to ask their physician about the activities they perform for companies.

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