Sam Centanni, PhD

Principal Investigator

Sam grew up in Rochester, NY and graduated with a BS in biology from the University at Albany in 2010. As an undergraduate, Sam worked in the lab of Dr. Melinda Larsen studying the proteins regulating branching morphogenesis in salivary glands. He broke into neuroscience when he joined the graduate school biomedical science PhD program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC. Sam did his dissertation in the lab of Dr. Judson Chandler studying the effects of adolescent binge alcohol exposure on prefrontal cortex development and function in adulthood. He obtained his PhD in 2015 and moved on to work with Dr. Danny Winder at Vanderbilt as a postdoctoral fellow. Here he studied the neuronal circuitry driving negative affect induced by stress and/or alcohol abstinence. He started his lab in November 2021 at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the Physiology and Pharmacology Department. On his free time, Sam enjoys playing ice hockey, running, hiking, biking, and spending time with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.


Twitter: @samcentanni

Jincy Little, B.S.

Lab Manager

Jincy Little received her Bachelor of Science in Biology (Zoology track) in 2017 from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. In 2018, she began working for Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the Animal Research Program (ARP) as a Laboratory Animal Technician. She joined Dr. Centanni’s lab in 2022. Jincy has lived in King, North Carolina her whole life, where she grew up knowing she would work with animals. Outside of the lab, Jincy enjoys reading and watching fantasy movies, since she is a bit of a nerd. She also enjoys quilting, painting, playing with her dogs and cat, riding horses, spending time with family and friends, and especially helping her “barn siblings” to grow in their horsemanship.


Sandra Leone-Kabler, B.A.

Research Lab Technician

Sandra joined the Centanni lab in January 2022. She was born in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, she has lived in California, Virginia/DC  and Missouri. Sandra has a degree in Biology from University of Missouri Columbia. She has worked in research for the better part of 35 years from slime molds in Columbia Missouri,  sea turtle research in Florida to research at Wake Forest in Cancer Biology, Biochemistry and Physiology/Pharmacology.  She has been at Wake Forest Health Sciences for 26 years doing science, fixing equipment and all manner of problem solving! Sandra loves the beach and warm weather, and enjoys painting, gardening running and cooking!


Tatiyana Adkins, B.S.

Research Lab Technician

Tatiyana is a Charleston, SC native who received her BS in Biology with a Neuroscience concentration from Wofford College in 2023. She completed her first summer research program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Dr. Peter Kalivas’s lab where she helped develop a novel rodent model of NOWS. At the University of Michigan, she completed a second summer research program in Dr. Emily Jutkiewicz’s lab where she investigated the roles of pharmaceutical compounds in opioid tolerance and addiction. After graduating, she joined Dr. David Pitman’s lab at Wofford College as an in vivo electrophysiologist where she recorded sweet taste activity from the NST. She is currently pursuing her master’s in Addiction Research and Clinical Health at Wake Forest University. Her current research interests focus on the neurocircuitry of addictive disorders. Outside of the lab, Tatiyana likes to read, travel, and try new restaurants.


Amanda Salazar, B.S.

Neuroscience MS Graduate Student

Amanda is a Miami born resident who graduated from Rhodes College in 2020 with a BS in Neuroscience with a minor in Music. There, she worked in Dr. Kimberly Brien’s lab and studied organic chemistry to help synthesize chelating macromolecules to clean up pollution in lakes and rivers. Amanda joined the Neuroscience Masters program at Wake Forest in 2022 to continue her studies and further explore her interest in alcohol use disorder. She is a big proponent of diversity in science and loves engaging in science outreach. When she is not in the lab, you can find Amanda taking a nap, practicing music, reading a good fantasy novel, or obsessing over Harry Styles.


Aditi Buch, B.S.

Integrative Physiology and Pharmacology PhD Graduate Student

Aditi is a Nashville native who graduated with a Bachelors in Neuroscience from Belmont University in 2019. At Belmont she worked with Dr. Timothy Schoenfeld looking at learning and memory circuits in rodents models. After graduating, she joined the labs of Drs. Colleen Niswender and Jeff Conn at the Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery at Vanderbilt University where her work contributed to therapeutic avenues for Rett Syndrome. Aditi joined the IPP PhD program at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the fall of 2022 where she’s interested in studying the effects of different stressors on the brain’s reward pathways that influence alcohol and substance use. Outside of lab, Aditi likes to read, eat good food, go to soccer games, and watch Harry Styles perform live.


Ben Williams, M.S.

Neuroscience PhD Graduate Student

Ben received his Bachelors and Masters in Neuroscience from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He did research as both an undergraduate and a graduate student for 5 years in Scott Steffensen’s lab studying reward circuits in the nucleus accumbens in the context of alcohol use disorder. He started the Neuroscience PhD program at Wake Forest in Fall 2022. Ben is from Holbrook, Arizona, a small town that is known for being part of the inspiration for the Disney movie Cars. Outside of the lab, he loves playing basketball, down-hill skiing, playing chess, playing video games and riding motorcycles.


Leighelle Adrian, B.A.

Rotating Neuroscience Ph.D. Student

Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and raised in New York City, NY, Leighelle Adrian graduated with a BA in Biological Sciences at Mount Holyoke College in 2021. As an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant in Dr. Jared Schwartzer’s lab researching environmental impacts on behavior, neural, and broader immune system health. Upon graduating, she worked as a lab technician in Dr.Elizabeth West’s lab at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine where she investigated how cocaine withdrawal leads to aberrant, differential patterns of neural activity in parallel circuits that affect behavioral flexibility, and explored different palatable diets to see whether the pattern of neural activity overlaps with SUD patients’ neural activity. In 2023, Leighelle joined the Neuroscience Ph.D. program at Wake Forest University School of Medicine to understand how anxiety and stress trigger drug and food relapse and its potential effects on the neural circuitry. Outside of the lab, Leighelle enjoys traveling to new places, eating new foods, and going to concerts.


Ellie Howard

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ellie Howard is a current undergraduate student at Wake Forest University working on a major in psychology and minors in neuroscience and philosophy. She is originally from Laurel, Mississippi, but spent much of her time living in Los Angeles, California. Ellie joined the Centanni lab in 2023 to gain more experience as an undergraduate and to pursue her interests in addiction and relapse prevention. Outside of the lab, Ellie is a member of the Wake Forest mock trial team and club ski team. In her free time, she enjoys visiting cow farms, listening to
country music, and eating sushi