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Principal Investigator

Photo of Heather Cameron

Heather Cameron, Ph.D.

Section on Neuroplasticity


Dr. Cameron received her B.S. from Yale University and her Ph.D. from the Rockefeller University, where she worked with Bruce McEwen and Elizabeth Gould examining neurogenesis in the adult rat dentate gyrus. During a postdoctoral fellowship with Ron McKay at NINDS, she determined the magnitude of adult neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus and investigated the effects of stress hormones on neurogenesis in the aging rat hippocampus. Dr. Cameron joined the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at NIMH as an Investigator in 2001.

Research Interests

The dentate gyrus is one of only two brain regions that continue to produce large numbers of new neurons during adulthood. The goal of our research is to understand the function of adult neurogenesis by studying the regulation of granule cell development, the activation of the new neurons, and the behavioral consequences of inhibiting neurogenesis.

One focus of our work is understanding the activation of granule cells at different ages. New granule cells mature over several weeks, but it is unclear whether they become functional while they are immature, and both highly excitable and highly plastic, or whether they contribute to hippocampal function only after they mature and have properties more like the rest of the granule cell population. This issue is important, because it is related to the larger question of whether granule cells continue to be generated in order to increase the size of the granule cell population or whether the young neurons have a different function than the mature granule cells. If young granule cells do have a unique function, what is the time window during which they perform this function?

Another aspect of our work involves exploring the effects of adult neurogenesis on behavior. We have found that mice lacking adult neurogenesis show heightened physiological and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress and decreased ability to adapt to their level of anxiety-like behavior or caution in environments where threats are unpredictable. In addition, we find that rats and mice lacking ongoing neurogenesis show decreased motivation in difficult tasks and decreased shifting of attention to changes in the environment. We are investigating how the effects on stress, motivation, and attention are related to each other and to a role in learning and memory.

Selected Publications

New Neurons Restore Structural and Behavioral Abnormalities in a Rat Model of PTSD. Schoenfeld TJ, Rhee D, Martin L, Smith J, Sonti A, Padmanaban VS, Cameron HA (2019). Hippocampus. epub ahead of print PMID: 30865372.

Adult neurogenesis affects motivation to obtain weak, but not strong, reward in operant tasks. Karlsson RM, Wang AS, Sonti AN, Cameron HA (2018). Hippocampus. 28: 512-522 PMID: 29663595.

Human Adult Neurogenesis: Evidence and Remaining Questions. Kempermann G, Gage FH, Aigner L, Song H, Curtis MA, Thuret S, Kuhn HG, Jessberger S, Frankland PW, Cameron HA, Gould E, Hen R, Abrous DN, Toni N, Schinder AF, Zhao X, Lucassen PJ, Frisén J (2018). Cell Stem Cell. 23: 25-30 PMID: 29681514.

Behavioral and structural adaptations to stress. Cameron HA, Schoenfeld TJ (2018). Front Neuroendocrinology. 49: 106-113 PMID: 29421158.

Stress and loss of neurogenesis differentially reduce hippocampal volume. Schoenfeld TJ, McCausland HC, Morris D, Padmanaban V, Cameron HA (2017). Biol Psych. 82: 914-923 PMID: 28629541.

Magnetic resonance imaging of odorant activity-dependent migration of neural precursor cells and olfactory bulb growth. Pothayee N, Cummings D, Schoenfeld T, Dodd S, Cameron H, Belluscio L, Koretsky A. (2017). Neuroimage. 158: 232-241 PMID: 28669915.

Ongoing neurogenesis in the adult dentate gyrus mediates behavioral responses to ambiguous threat cues. Glover L, Schoenfeld TJ, Karlsson R-M, Bannerman DM, Cameron HA (2017). PLOS Biol. 15:e2001154 PMID: 28388632.

Anxiolytic Actions of Exercise in Absence of New Neurons. Schoenfeld TJ, McCausland HC, Sonti AN, Cameron HA. (2016). Hippocampus. 26: 1373-1378 PMID: 27571506.

Lasting adaptations in social behavior produced by social disruption and inhibition of adult neurogenesis. Opendak M, Offit L, Monari P, Schoenfeld TJ, Sonti AN, Cameron HA, and Gould E (2016). J Neurosci. 36: 7027-7038 PMID: 27358459.

A transgenic rat for specifically inhibiting adult neurogenesis. Snyder JS, Grigereit L, Seib D, Brewer M, Pickel J, Cameron HA (2016). eNeuro. 3(3) PMID: 27257630.

New hippocampal neurons mature rapidly in response to ketamine but are not required for its acute antidepressant effects on neophagia in rats. Soumier A, Carter RM, Schoenfeld TJ, Cameron HA (2016). eNeuro. 3(2) PMID: 27066531.

Pentraxins coordinate excitatory synapse maturation and circuit integration of parvalbumin interneurons. Pelkey KA, Barksdale E, Craig MT, Yuan X, Sukumaran M, Vargish GA, Mitchell RM, Wyeth MS, Petralia RS, Chittajallu R, Karlsson RM, Cameron HA, Murata Y, Colonnese MT, Worley PF, McBain CJ (2015). Neuron. 85:1257-72 PMID: 25754824.

Adult neurogenesis: beyond learning and memory. Cameron HA, Glover LR (2015). Annu Rev Psychol. 66: 53-81 PMID: 25251485.

New neurons in the adult striatum: from rodents to humans. Inta D, Cameron HA, Gass P (2015). Trends Neurosci. 38: 517-523 PMID: 26298770.

Adult neurogenesis is necessary to refine and maintain circuit specificity. Cummings D, Snyder J, Brewer M, Cameron H, Belluscio L (2014). J Neurosci. 34: 13801-13810 PMID: 25297106.

Anxiety- And Depression-Like Behavior And Impaired Neurogenesis Evoked By Peripheral Neuropathy Persist Following Resolution Of Prolonged Tactile Hypersensitivity. Dimitrov E, Tsuda H, Cameron H, Usdin T (2014). J Neurosci. 34: 12304-12312 PMID: 25209272.

Late maturation of adult-born neurons in the temporal dentate gyrus. Snyder JS, Ferrante S, Cameron HA (2012). PLoS One. 7: e48757 PMID: 23144957.

Complementary activation of hippocampal–cortical subregions and immature neurons following chronic training in single and multiple context versions of the water maze. Snyder JS, Clifford MA, Jeurling SI, Cameron HA (2012). Behav Brain Res. 227: 330-339 PMID: 21736899.

Adult-born hippocampal neurons are more numerous, faster maturing and more involved in behavior in rats than in mice. Snyder JS, Choe J, Clifford M, Jeurling S, Hurley P, Brown A, Kamhi J, Cameron HA (2009). J Neurosci. 29: 14484-14495 PMID: 19923282.

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