Catherine Jensen Peña

Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Columbia University, 2012
Office Phone
157 PNI

Research Focus

Neurodevelopment, stress, and transcriptomic regulation

My laboratory studies the neurobiological mechanisms through which early environmental experiences are encoded and maintained into adulthood to have long-lasting impact on behavior. In particular, we are interested in understanding how early life stress increases risk for depression, addiction, and other psychiatric syndromes. This research is translationally motivated by the robust clinical finding that child maltreatment and other forms of early life stress increase the lifetime risk of depression and other mood, anxiety, and drug disorders by 2-4 -fold. Studies in humans and animals suggest that early life stress sensitizes individuals to exposures such as stress encountered later in life. To understand the neurobiological mechanisms underlying this latent behavioral vulnerability, we are integrating a range of technical approaches including rodent behavior, RNA and chromatin sequencing and bioinformatic analysis, in vivo cell-specific gene manipulation, and high-resolution imaging. By understanding how early life stress affects brain development at multiple levels - epigenetic and molecular, neuroendocrine, cells and circuits - we ultimately hope to apply such knowledge towards innovative therapies relevant to individuals who experienced childhood stress and trauma. 

Related Links

Princeton Neuroscience Institute
Research Area
Systems & Circuits
Molecular & Cellular