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Nesha Burghardt

Ph.D., New York University

Department of Psychology
Hunter College, Room 626D-HN
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065



Current Areas of Research

My research is focused on understanding abnormalities in the neural circuits that underlie different psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and anorexia nervosa. My approach involves using behavioral neuroscience to model features of these disorders in rodents and modern molecular tools to identify changes in relevant brain regions. There are currently four main ongoing projects in the lab.


Serotonin and Fear Learning

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a widely used class of antidepressant. We have previously characterized the effects of systemic SSRI treatment on fear learning, as measured by changes in auditory fear conditioning. One focus of the lab is to investigate the role of the extended amygdala in mediating these serotonin-induced changes in fear learning.


The Effects of Chronic Stress on Cognition and Mood

A second focus of the lab involves identifying how chronic stress affects associative learning and information flow in the underlying fear circuit. In addition, we are using chronic stress to investigate whether a diet enriched with curcumin ameliorates symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.


Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Cognitive Flexibility

We have previously established a role for adult-born neurons in the hippocampus in cognitive flexibility, an ability that is impaired in numerous psychiatric disorders. An additional focus of the lab is to characterize the effects of dietary curcumin on adult hippocampal neurogenesis, cognitive flexibility, and other forms of neurogenesis-dependent learning.


Neurobiology of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening psychiatric disorder that is poorly understood and without effective treatments. Another focus of the lab is to identify neural mechanisms mediating risk and resilience to anorexia with a focus on dopamine.



Selected Publications

  • Beeler, J.A., Mourra, D., Zanca, R.M., Kalmbach, A., Gellman, C., Klein, B.Y., Ravenelle, R., Serrano, P., Moore, H., Rayport, S., Mingote, S. & Burghardt, N.S. (2020) Vulnerable and Resilient Phenotypes in a Mouse Model of Anorexia Nervosa. Biological Psychiatry, in press
  • Aubry, A.V., Khandaker, H., Ravenelle, R., Grunfeld, I.S., Bonnefil, V., Chan, K.L., Cathomas, F., Liu, J, Schafe, G.E. & Burghardt, N.S. (2019) A Diet Enriched with Curcumin Promotes Resilience to Chronic Social Defeat Stress. Neuropsychopharmacology, 44(4): 733-742.
  • Luna, V.M., Anacker, C., Burghardt, N.S., Khandaker, H., Andreu, V., Millette, A., Leary, P., Ravenelle, R., Jimenez, J.C., Mastrodonato, A., Denny, C.A.,  Fenton, A.A., Scharfman, H.E. & Hen, R. (2019) Adult-born Hippocampal Neurons Bi-Directionally Modulate Entorhinal Inputs into the Dentate Gyrus. Science, 364(6440): 578-583.
  • Garcia-Garcia, A.L., Canetta, S.E., Stujenske, J.M., Burghardt, N.S., Ansorge, M.S., Dranovsky, A. & Leonardo, E.D. (2018) Serotonin Inputs to the Dorsal BNST Modulate Anxiety in a 5-HT1A Receptor Dependent Manner. Molecular Psychiatry, 23(10):1990-1997.
  • Aubry, A., Serrano, P.A. & Burghardt, N.S. (2016) Molecular Mechanisms of Stress-Induced Increases in Fear Memory Consolidation Within the Amygdala. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 10:191.
  • 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
  • Burghardt, N.S. & Bauer, E.P. (2013) Acute and Chronic Effects of SSRI Treatment on Fear Conditioning: Implications for Underlying Fear Circuits. Neuroscience, 247:253-72.
  • 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.
  • 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.