Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurobiology 
Department of Psychiatry
Division of Systems Neuroscience &
Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology
Columbia University Stem Cell Initiative
New York State Psychiatric Institute,
Columbia University
40 Haven Avenue, Room 667
New York, NY 10032-2695
office: 646-774-7339
lab: 646-774-6812

The goal of my research is to understand how early life adversity can shape brain development during sensitive periods, and how abnormal development of neural circuits early in life can lead to impairments in cognitive function and affective behavior in adulthood. We recently found that the dentate gyrus region of the ventral hippocampus contains a specific population of ‘stress-responsive’ neurons that can cause anxiety-like behavior in mice. These stress-responsive cells can be silenced by newborn neurons in the hippocampus, which in turn causes resilience to the effects of chronic stress by inhibiting dentate gyrus activation by stressful insults (Anacker et al., 2018). We are now interested in understanding how early life experiences affect the development of these stress-responsive cells in the hippocampus, and how these cells are modulated by effective antidepressant treatment. As part of this research, we use transgenic mouse models together with early life stress paradigms to explore how ‘gene x environment’ interactions contribute to differences in the development of the hippocampus and of the wider neural circuitry underlying cognition and mood. Ultimately, our goal is to determine the neurodevelopmental mechanisms that contribute to individual differences in stress susceptibility and resilience, with the goal to find new strategies to treat or prevent psychiatric disorders in humans.

Current Research Support


NIH R00MH108719-04                                               Anacker (PI)                                       03/2016 – 02/2021

Identifying Cellular and Molecular Substrates of Treatment-Resistant Depression

The goal of this K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award is to investigate the role of adult hippocampal neurogenesis in response and resistance to antidepressant treatment in mice

 NIH R00MH108719-03S1                                          Anacker (PI)                                       03/2016 – 02/2021

Diversity Supplement for Ryan Shores

Role: Mentor

 NIH 2P50 MH090964-07                                            Mann (PI)                                            07/2018 – 06/2023

Antecedents of Suicidal Behavior Related Neurobiology

The goal of this Silvio O. Conte Centers for Basic or Translational Mental Health Research (P50) is to determine the behavioral, neurobiological, molecular and immune markers of suicide risk through both human and animal projects, supported by statistical, molecular, human imaging and training cores.

Role: Co-Investigator (Project 2)

NIH 2P50 MH090964-07S2                                       Mann (PI)                                            07/2018 – 06/2023

Diversity Supplement for Rushell Dixon

Role: Mentor

Virtual Depression Center (NYSPI)                        Anacker (PI)                                       03/2019 – 03/2020

Identifying Novel Diagnostic Biomarkers of Depression Risk

The goal of this pilot study is to investigate neural circuit dysfunction and blood-based biomarkers for depression risk in human individuals with a family history of depression        

Columbia Stem Cell Initiative (CSCI)                     Anacker (PI)                                      09/2019 – 08/2021

Investigating the Role of Neural Stem Cells for Age-related Cognitive Decline and Emotional Behavior

The goal of this study is to investigate new strategies to harness the potential of adult hippocampal neurogenesis to prevent and treat cognitive decline and psychiatric disorders.

Sunovion Pharmaceuticals                                     Anacker (PI)                                       03/2020 – 03/2021

Investigating the mechanism of action of SEP-363856 in mouse models of early life stress

The goal of this study is to investigate the efficacy of SEP-363856 in mouse models of early life stress, and the role of 5HT1A receptors as a molecular mechanism of action.

Pending Research Support:

NIH R01 MH126105-01

Investigating the Role of Hippocampus – Orbitofrontal Cortex Circuits for Cognitive Flexibility

The goal of this study is to investigate how neural projections from the ventral hippocampus to the orbitofrontal cortex regulate cognitive flexibility and vulnerability to chronic stress.

Role: Principal Investigator

NIH P50 Silvio O. Conte Center for Intergenerational Psychiatry

The goal of this Conte Center is to elucidate the intergenerational effects of stress on cognitive control and emotion regulation, as well as biological transmission pathways.

Role: Project Lead (Project 4)

1907 Research Trailblazer Award

This Award will fund novel research on the neural circuits underlying stress vulnerability, by focusing on neural circuit mechanisms of cognitive flexibility.

Role: Principal Investigator

One Mind Rising Star Award

This Award will support highly innovative in vivo Ca2+ imaging research in freely moving mice to investigate the neural circuit mechanisms underlying cognitive flexibility as a potential cognitive substrate for stress resilience.

Role: Principal Investigator

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (BBRI, NARSAD)

The goal of this study is to investigate how the ventral dentate gyrus region of the hippocampus in mice is involved in mediating the long-lasting effects of early life stress on fear and anxiety-like behavior in mice, using transgenic mice and in vivo Ca2+ imaging.

Role: Principal Investigator