Behavioral Neuroscience Research in Stress (Conrad)

Behavioral Neuroscience Research in Stress (Conrad)
Keywords: stress; corticosterone; spatial and working memory; rodent behavior; hippocampus; amygdala, prefrontal cortex; depression; anxiety; PTSD
Lab Area
Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology
Lab Director
Cheryl D. Conrad, PhD
Actively Recruiting Undergraduate Researchers
Contact Us

Our goal is to understand the mechanisms by which stress influences brain plasticity and resilience. The stress response is vital for organism survival and yet, a dysregulated stress response can be deadly. Understanding stress balance will be necessary for optimal health and survival. We have received funding from the National Institutes of Health and several foundations to study chronic stress and cognition in rodents. Research using chronic stress in animal models provides unique insights into the neurobiological underpinnings that could provide novel directions for therapeutic treatment. Current projects entail:

• Investigations into how gonadal hormones influence cognitive function when individuals are exposed to challenges, such as ongoing chronic stress, how these outcomes differ by sex.

• Using a rodent model to understand how middle-age and estrogen exposure in females influence depression and anxiety

• In collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, investigating a rodent model of Alzheimer’s disease as it pertains to cognitive ability at different ages and changes in gene expression within the brainstem region, the Nucleus Incertus.

Lab Director and Principal Investigator:

Cheryl D. Conrad, PhD, Professor and Honors Disciplinary Faculty 

Professor Conrad is a member of the Behavioral Neuroscience and Computation Psychology (BNCP) area and is affiliated with programs in the Molecular and Cellular Biology and Animal Behavior in the School of Life Sciences, and the interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program. Her passion is in neuroendocrine modulation of cognitive processes, with an emphasis on the stress system on memory and anxiety. She first studied auditory neuroplasticity with Dr. Norman Weinberger at the University of California, Irvine, earning two degrees in Biology and Chemistry. At the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Dr. Conrad worked with Dr. Edward Roy on the neuroendocrine (gonadal and adrenal) system influences on spatial cognition. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Conrad worked with Dr. Bruce McEwen to investigate mechanisms of stress on spatial ability. Dr. Conrad has been at ASU since 1997 is passionate about her student’s training and success.

Current Doctoral Students:

Dylan Peay Doctoral Student, Behavioral Neuroscience, Department of Psychology

Dylan earned his undergraduate degree in Biology with a secondary teaching certificate from Temple University, College of Science and Technology, Philadelphia. He joined Dr. Conrad’s research team in the fall of 2017 and his master’s degree with Dr. Conrad in 2019, with the thesis published in Behav Brain Res (2020), vol 383, pg. 112519. Dylan is interested in the cognitive effects following chronic stress.

Eric Bandin, Doctoral Student, Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology, Department of Psychology.

Eric earned his undergraduate degree in Psychology and Neuroscience from Arizona State University after doing volunteer undergraduate research with Dr. Bimonte-Nelson. Eric is interested in system-level neuroscience and studies how hormones and brain dysfunction impact cognition, anxiety and depression.

Current Undergraduate Research Assistants

Bianca Dapon, Neuroscience and Barrett Honors Student


Hannah Dixon, Neuroscience with minor in Communications

Martina Montero, Neuroscience with a minor in Civic & Economic Thought and Leadership

Sai Potu, Neuroscience and Barrett Honors Student

Sara Slodkova, Biological Sciences and Barrett Honors Student

Kennedy Whittaker, Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior

Current Post-baccalaureate Volunteer

Daniela Pacheco, Neuroscience with a minor in Spanish from ASU, May 2022

Natali Palomo, Psychology from California State University Sacramento, CA, May 2022

Current High School Student Volunteers

Pranav Chandramohan

Carol Chen

Meenal Srivastava

Kara Ugarte

Our Lab Alums: where are they now?

Past Graduate and Postdoctoral Associates

  • Jessica M. Judd (, PhD 2020, currently a postdoctoral associate with Dr. Ramon Velazquez, BioDesign, ASU
  • J. Bryce Ortiz, PhD 2017, currently a postdoctoral associate with Dr. Rachel Rowe, University of Arizona, College of Medicine, Phoenix
  • Dr. Sara Taylor, 2012-2014, currently an Assistant Professor at Hendrix College, AR
  • Dr. Annie Hoffman, Ph.D. 2013, currently a postdoctoral associate at UCLA
  • Dr. Sarah Baran, Ph.D., 2008 
  • Dr. Katie McLaughlin, Ph.D., 2007, Medical Liaison, Eli Lilly & Co, IN
  • Dr. Ryan Wright, Ph.D., 2007, Medical Science Liaison Director, Eli Lilly & Co, AZ

Undergraduate and Post-Bac Students Who Continued their Education

  • Amanda Acuña, graduated 2021, in PhD program, Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, ASU, AZ
  • Cindy Reynolds, graduated 2020, in MS program Science of Heath Care Delivery, ASU, AZ
  • Elliot Smith, graduated 2020, in PhD program, Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, ASU, AZ
  • Jinah Kim, post-bac volunteer 2018-2000, in PhD program, Neuroscience, University of California, San Diego, CA
  • Christopher Willis, graduated 2019, in MD program, St Louis University, St Louis, MO
  • Vrishti Shah, graduated 2018, in MD program, University of Arizona, AZ
  • Elizabeth Hanson, graduated 2018, in Program of Counseling, ASU
  • Aaron Flegenheimer, graduated 2017, in MD program, Tulane School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA
  • Brittany Le, graduated 2017, in Optometry Program, Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, CA
  • Diego Padilla-Garcia, post-bac volunteer 2016-2017, in PhD program in Psychological & Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Pooja Paode, graduated 2016, earned MS from Science of Health Care Delivery, ASU, AZ
  • Kenji Nishimura, graduated 2016, in PhD program at the University of Texas, Austin
  • Salma Kemmou, graduated 2015, earned MA from Global Affairs and Management, ASU, AZ
  • Julia Anglin, graduated 2014, in PhD program, Computational Neuroscience, USC, Los Angeles, CA
  • Jeffery Hanna, graduated 2012, earned MS in Clinical Translational Sciences, University of Arizona, AZ
  • Danya Anouti, graduated 2012, earned MD from George Washington University, Washington, DC
  • Agnieszka Mika, graduated 2011, earned PhD in Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
  • Milica Miocevic, graduated 2011, earned PhD in Quantitative Psychology, ASU
  • Charles Armstrong, graduated 2009, earned MD from University of Arizona, AZ
  • Thu Huynh, post-bac volunteer 2007-2010, earned PhD in Neuroscience, New York University, NY
  • Mariam El-Ashmawy, graduated 2008, University of Texas, Southwestern Med Ctr, Dallas, MD/PhD program
  • Matthew Young, graduated 2008, earned PhD in Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, PA
  • Jessica Wilson, graduated 2007, earned MD from University of Illinois, Chicago, IL
  • Gillian Hamilton, graduated 2007, earned PhD in Psychology, University of Delaware, DE
  • Juan Gomez, graduated 2006, earned PhD in Psychology, Hunter College, CUNY, NY
  • James Harman, graduated 2005, earned DO from West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Rudy Bellani, graduated 2005, earned PhD from The Rockefeller University, NY
  • Cainan Foltz, graduated 2005, earned MD from Stanford University
  • Jonathan Kleen, graduated 2005, earned PhD and MD at Dartmouth University, NH
  • Elizabeth Lightner, graduated 2004, earned MD, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
  • Sergey Tsekhanov, graduated 2004, earned DO, Touro University, NV
  • Lindsay Wieczorek, graduated 2004, earned PhD at Washington University, MO
  • Jamie Jackson, graduated 2002, earned PhD in Clinical Psychology, Ohio State University, OH
  • Angelique Thomas-Ferayorni, graduated 2001, earned DO at Midwestern University, Phoenix, AZ

Impact of Chronic Stress on Hippocampal and Prefrontal Cortex Structure and Function

Conrad, C.D., Ortiz, J.B., & Judd, J.M. (2017). Chronic stress and hippocampal dendritic complexity: Methodological and functional considerations. Physiology & Behavior, 178, 66-81, Special issue in honor of “Randall Sakai.” DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.11.017

Nishimura, K.J., Ortiz, J.B., & Conrad, C.D. (2017). Antagonizing the GABAA receptor during behavioral testing improves spatial memory in at different doses in control and chronically stressed rats. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 145 114-118. DOI: 10.1016/j.nlm.2017.09.002

Mika, A., Mazur, G.J., Hoffman, A.N., Talboom, J.S., Bimonte-Nelson, H.A., Sanabria, F., & Conrad, C.D. (2012). Chronic Stress Impairs Prefrontal Cortex-Dependent Response Inhibition and Spatial Working Memory. Behavioral Neuroscience, 126(5), 605-619. DOI: 10.1037/a0029642

Conrad, C.D. (2010). A critical review of chronic stress effects on spatial learning and memory. Invited review at Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 34, 742-755, special issue in the “Consequences of Stress.” DOI: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2009.11.003

Conrad, C.D. (2006). What is the functional significance of chronic stress-induced CA3 dendritic retraction within the hippocampus? Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 5, 41-60. DOI: 10.1177/1534582306289043

Cognitive Sex Differences In Response To Chronic Stress 

Peay, D.N., Saribekeyan, H.M., Parada, P.A. §, Hanson, E.M., Badaruddin, B.S., Judd, J.M., Donnay, M.E., Padilla-Garcia, D., and Conrad, C.D. (2020). Chronic unpredictable intermittent restraint stress disrupts spatial memory in male, but not female rats. Behavioural Brain Research, 383, 112519. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2020.112519

Ortiz, J.B., Taylor, S.B., Hoffman, A.N., Campbell, A.N., Lucas, L.R., & Conrad, C.D. (2015). Sex-specific impairment and recovery of spatial learning following the end of chronic unpredictable restraint stress: Potential relevance of limbic GAD. Behavioural Brain Research, 282, 176-184. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.12.051

Conrad, C.D., & Bimonte-Nelson, H.A. (2010). Impact of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal / Gonadal Axes on Trajectory of Age-Related Cognitive Decline. Progress in Brain Research, Martini, L., Ed. Elsevier. New York, NY, Vol 182, pp. 31-76. DOI: 10.1016/S0079-6123(10)82002-3

McLaughlin, K.J., Baran, S.E., & Conrad, C.D. (2009). Chronic Stress- and Sex-specific neuromorphological and functional changes in limbic structures. Molecular Neurobiology, 40, 166-82. DOI: 10.1007/s12035-009-8079-7

Stress and Estrogen Influences on the Brain and Behavior

Koebele, S.V., Nishimura, K.J., Bimonte-Nelson, H.A., Kemmou, S. Ortiz, J.B., Judd, J.M., and Conrad, C.D. (2020). Long-term cyclic plus tonic 17b-estradiol, but not cyclic 17b-estradiol alone, improves spatial working memory in ovariectomized middle-aged rats. Hormones & Behavior, 118, 104656. DOI:

Ortiz, J.B., McLaughlin, K.J., Hamilton, G.F., Baran, S.E., Campbell, A.N., & Conrad, C.D. (2013). Cholesterol and perhaps estradiol protect against corticosterone-induced hippocampal CA3 dendritic retraction in gonadectomized female and male rats. Neuroscience, 246, 409-421.

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2013.04.027

Conrad, C.D., McLaughlin, K.J., Huynh, T., El-Ashmawy, M., & Sparks, M. (2012). Chronic stress and a cyclic regimen of estradiol administration separately facilitate spatial memory: Relationship with CA1 spine density and dendritic complexity. Behavioral Neuroscience, 126(1), 142-156. DOI: 10.1037/a0025770


Neuroplasticity in the Aftermath Following Chronic Stress

Ortiz, J.B., Newbern, J., and Conrad, C.D. (2021) Chronic stress has different immediate and delayed effects on hippocampal calretinin- and somatostatin- positive cells. Hippocampus, 31(2) 221-231. DOI: 10.1002/hipo.23285

Ortiz, J.B. §, and Conrad, C.D. (2018) The impact from the aftermath of chronic stress on hippocampal morphology and function: Is there a recovery? Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 49, 114-123. DOI: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2018.02.005

Ortiz, J.B., Anglin, J.M., Daas, E.J., Paode, P.R., Nishimura, K.J., & Conrad, C.D. (2018). BDNF and TrkB mediate the improvement from chronic stress-induced spatial memory deficits and CA3 dendritic retraction. Neuroscience, 388, 330-346. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2018.07.049

Ortiz, J.B., Mathewson, C.M., Hoffman, A.N., Hanavan, P.D., Terwilliger, E.F., & Conrad, C.D. (2014). Hippocampal brain derived neurotrophic factor mediates recovery from chronic stress-induced spatial reference memory deficits. European Journal of Neuroscience, 40, 3351-3362. DOI: 10.1111/ejn.12703


Chronic Stress In Rodents to Understand Depression

Huynh, T.N., Krigbaum, A.M., Hanna, J.J., & Conrad, C.D. (2011). Sex differences and phase of the light cycle modify chronic stress effects on anxiety and depressive-like behavior. Behavioural Brain Research, 222, 212-222. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.03.038

Conrad, C.D., Ed., (2011) The Handbook of Stress: Neuropsychological Effects on the Brain, pp. 693. Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, New York, NY. Forward by Robert Sapolsky, Reviews from Drs. J McGaugh and M Dallman. DOI: 10.1002/9781118083222, ISBN: 978-1-4443-3023-6

Chronic Stress and Fear Conditioning To Understand Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Judd, J.M., Smith, E.A., Kim, J., Shah, V., Sanabria, F., and Conrad, C.D. (2020). Chronic stress has lasting effects on improved cued discrimination early in extinction. Learning & Memory, 27, 319-327.

Hoffman, A.N., Parga, A., Paode, P.R., Watterson, L.R., Nikulina, E.M., Hammer, Jr., R.P., & Conrad, C.D. (2015). Chronic stress enhanced fear memories are associated with increased amygdala zif268 mRNA expression and are resistant to reconsolidation. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 120, 61-68. DOI: 10.1016/j.nlm.2015.02.004

Hoffman, A.N., Lorson, N.G., Sanabria, F., Olive, M.F., & Conrad, C.D. (2014). Chronic stress disrupts fear extinction and enhances amygdala and hippocampal Fos expression in an animal model of post-traumatic stress disorder. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 112, 139-147. DOI: 10.1016/j.nlm.2014.01.018

ASU Now news story:  Stressed out over your misplaced keys? Or is it the other way around?  by Emma Greguska, 4/13/16.

The Behavioral Neuroscience group moved back into a newly renovated Psychology building in state-of-the-art facilities in August 2015! The layout of the wet labs and graduate/postdoctoral offices allows for frequent personnel interactions across research laboratories. Several sitting areas are strategically positioned to allow impromptu meetings in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. Designated testing rooms in a separate quarter provide quiet space for optimal testing of behavior. 

On June 21, 2015, Cheryl Conrad was an invited speaker at the Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science (SPARCS) and spoke on the topic of, “Does Stress Make You Stupid?” For more information, go to:

Congratulations to Bryce Ortiz for acceptance in the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) 2015 Summer Program in Neuroscience, Ethics & Survival (SPINES) at Woods Hole! Bryce was among a few dozen graduate students, postdoctoral associates and junior faculty who were selected to participate in the prestigious summer program. 

Congratulations to Pooja Paode (left) and Eshaan Daas for earning the School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research (SOLUR) awards in 2015-2016! Pooja and Eshaan were undergraduate volunteers who were able earn a SOLUR standing based upon their academic success and research proposals! They also presented their work locally at ASU and nationally at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Chicago, 2015.

Brain Awareness activities are very important. We showcase our behavioral neuroscience research laboratory work to the community. All faculty, postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate students volunteer at many events throughout the year. Cheryl Conrad (right) is showing an actual human brain to one of the visitors to the Psychology Booth at ASU Homecoming. We bake cookies to commemorate the event!

The Conrad team (below) attends conferences throughout the year to disseminate our findings, network with other neuroscientists, and learn about the newest discoveries and technologies.