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Nesha Burghardt

Ph.D., New York University

Department of Psychology
Hunter College, Room 1047N
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065

Current Areas of Research

My research interests involve identifying the neural circuits that underlie the cognitive impairments and emotional symptoms associated with neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.   I am currently investigating these issues using three approaches.

Developmental Effects of Stress

Adolescence is a developmental time period during which there are marked changes in hormones and neural architecture.  One focus of the lab is to understand how chronic stress during adolescence leads to long-lasting changes in the neural circuits implicated in mood and anxiety disorders.

Serotonin and Emotional Learning

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a widely used class of antidepressants.  We have previously characterized the effects of systemic SSRI treatment on emotional learning, using Pavlovian fear conditioning.  A second focus of the lab is to investigate the neural pathways involved in mediating the effects of serotonin on fear learning and innate anxiety.

Neurobiology of Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening psychiatric disorder that is poorly understood and without effective treatments.  Interestingly, there is a high rate of comorbidity between anorexia nervosa and anxiety disorders.  A third aim of the lab is to identify mechanisms that increase vulnerability to anorexia nervosa, with a focus on the relationship between anorexia nervosa and dysfunction within circuits mediating fear and/or reward. 

Representative Publications:

  1. Burghardt, N.S., Sigurdsson, T., Gorman, J.M., McEwen, B.S.& LeDoux, J.E. (2013) Chronic Antidepressant Treatment Impairs the Acquisition of Fear Extinction. Biological Psychiatry, 73(11):1078-86. Recommended by Faculty of 1000.
  2. Burghardt, N.S. & Bauer, E.P. (2013) Acute and Chronic Effects of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Treatment on Fear Conditioning: Implications for Underlying Fear Circuits. Neuroscience, 247:253-72.
  3. Ravinder, S.*, Burghardt, N.S.*, Brodsky, R., Bauer, E., & Chattarji, S. (2013) A Role for the Extended Amygdala in the Fear Enhancing Effects of Acute Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Treatment. Translational Psychiatry, 3:e209. *authors contributed equally to this work. 
  4. Kheirbek, M.A., Drew, L.J., Burghardt, N.S., Costantini, D.O., Tannenholz, L., Ahmari, S.E., Zeng, H., Fenton, A.A. & Hen R. (2013) Differential Control of Learning and Anxiety Along the Dorsoventral Axis of the Dentate Gyrus. Neuron, 77(5):955-68.
  5. Burghardt, N.S., Park, E.H., Hen, R. & Fenton, A.A. (2012) Adult-Born Hippocampal Neurons Promote Cognitive Flexibility in Mice. Hippocampus, 22(9):1795-808.
  6. Denny, C.A., Burghardt, N.S., Schachter, D.M., Hen, R., & Drew, M.R. (2012) 4- to 6-Week-Old Adult-Born Hippocampal Neurons Influence Novelty-Evoked Exploration and Contextual Fear Conditioning. Hippocampus, 22(5): 1188-201.
  7. Sahay, A., Scobie, K.N., Hill, A.S., O’Carroll, C.M., Kheirbek, M.A., Burghardt, N.S., Fenton, A.A., Dranovsky A. & Hen, R. (2011) Impact of Increasing Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis on Cognition and Mood. Nature, 472 (7344): 466-70.