Skip to content

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 inhibiting adult neurogenesis on behavior. We have found that mice lacking adult neurogenesis show heightened responses to psychosocial stress; it takes longer for corticosteroid levels to return to baseline levels after stress in these mice. In addition, they show increased depressive-like behavior in stressful tests or after being stressed. We are interested in learning more about how the new neurons normally buffer against depressive-like behavior. In addition, we are investigating how the stress buffering property of new neurons relates to a function for adult neurogenesis in learning and memory.

Selected Publications

Adult hippocampal neurogenesis buffers stress responses and depressive behaviour. Snyder JS, Soumier A, Brewer M, Pickel J, Cameron HA. Nature. 2011 Aug 3;476(7361):458-61. doi: 10.1038/nature10287. PMID: 21814201.

Septo-temporal gradients of neurogenesis and activity in 13-month-old rats. Snyder JS, Ramchand P, Rabbett S, Radik R, Wojtowicz JM, Cameron HA. Neurobiol Aging. 2011 Jun;32(6):1149-56. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2009.05.022. Epub 2009 Jul 25. PMID: 19632743.

Adult-born hippocampal neurons are more numerous, faster maturing, and more involved in behavior in rats than in mice. Snyder JS, Choe JS, Clifford MA, Jeurling SI, Hurley P, Brown A, Kamhi JF, Cameron HA. J Neurosci. 2009 Nov 18;29(46):14484-95. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1768-09.2009. PMID: 19923282.

The effects of exercise and stress on the survival and maturation of adult-generated granule cells. Snyder JS, Glover LR, Sanzone KM, Kamhi JF, Cameron HA. Hippocampus. 2009 Oct;19(10):898-906. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20552. PMID: 19156854.

Anatomical gradients of adult neurogenesis and activity: young neurons in the ventral dentate gyrus are activated by water maze training. Snyder JS, Radik R, Wojtowicz JM, Cameron HA. Hippocampus. 2009 Apr;19(4):360-70. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20525. PMID: 19004012.

Porter Bldg, Room 3C915, MSC 3718

Phone: +1 301 496 3814
Fax: +1 301 480 4564