Cate Peña - 6th year PhD

Cate Peña

I earned my BA at the University of Pennsylvania in Biological Basis of Behavior in 2006. While at Penn I worked in the laboratory of Dr. Tracy Bale to understand the intersection of stress and feeding pathways in the brain. In 2006-7 I was an Intramural Research Training Awardee at the National Institute of Mental Health under Dr. Dennis Murphy. I am currently a PhD student in the Neurobiology and Behavior department at Columbia University, working here in Dr. Frances Champagne’s lab. In 2008 and 2009 I received Honorable Mentions from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, and in 2010 I received a departmental training grant for my work.

MA, Neurobiology and Behavior, Columbia University, 2008
National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Training Award, 2007
BA cum laude, Biological Basis of Behavior Honors, University of Pennsylvania, 2006

Research Overview

My current research interests are to understand the effects of the pre- and post-natal maternal environments on offspring brain development, with a particular focus on understanding epigenetic regulation of neuroendocrine, reward, and stress pathway development. I am using the High-Low licking/grooming rat model of maternal care along with a variety of molecular and behavioral techniques to understand maternal contribution to differences in epigenetic modifications, gene expression, and behavior.

I am also highly involved in neuroscience education and outreach within the greater New York City area. Please see here to learn more and get involved.


Peña CJ, Monk C, Champagne FA, 2012, Epigenetic effects of prenatal stress on 11ß-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-2 in the placenta and fetal brain, PLoS One

Peña CJ, Champagne FA, 2012, Epigenetic and Neurodevelopmental Perspectives on Variation in Parenting Behavior, Parenting: Science and Practice 12:201-211.

Curley JP, Jensen CL, Franks B, Champagne FA, 2012, Variation in maternal and anxiety-like behavior associated with discrete patterns of oxytocin and vasopressin 1a receptor density in the lateral septum, Hormones and Behavior

Moya PR, Fox MA, Jensen CL, Laporte JL, French HT, Wendland JR, Murphy DL, 2011, Altered 5-HT2C receptor agonist-induced responses and 5-HT2C receptor RNA editing in the amygdala of serotonin transporter knockout mice. BMC Pharmacology 11(1):3.

Pankevich DE, Teegarden SL, Hedin AD, Jensen CL & Bale TL, 2010, Caloric Restriction Experience Reprograms Stress and Orexigenic Pathways and Promotes Binge Eating, Journal of Neuroscience 30: 16399-16407.
Also see ScienceNOW news on this topic.

Curley JP, Jensen CL, Mashoodh R & Champagne FA, 2010, Social influences on neurobiology and behavior: Epigenetic effects during development, Psychoneuroendocrinology

Fagiolini M, Jensen CL & Champagne FA, 2009, Epigenetic Influences on Brain Development and Plasticity, Current Opinion in Neurobiology 19: 1-6.

Fox MA, Jensen CL & Murphy DL, 2009, Atypical opioids have exaggerated serotonin syndrome behavioral effects, but decreased analgesic effects, in genetically-deficient serotonin transporter (SERT) mice Int J Neuropsychopharm 12: 1055-1065.

Wendland JR, Moya PR, Kruse MR, Ren-Patterson RF, Jensen CL, Timpano KR & Murphy DL, 2008, A novel, putative gain-of-function haplotype at SLC6A4 associates with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Human Molecular Genetics, 17: 717-23.

Fox MA, Jensen CL, Gallagher PS & Murphy DL, 2007, Receptor mediation of exaggerated responses to serotonin-enhancing drugs in serotonin transporter (SERT)-deficient mice. Neuropsychopharmacology, 53: 643-56.

Kalueff AV, Jensen CL & Murphy DL, 2007, Locomotory patterns, spatiotemporal organization of exploration and spatial memory in serotonin transporter knockout mice. Brain Research, 1169: 87-97.

Lab Members


Contact information

Columbia University
Department of Psychology
406 Schermerhorn Hall
1190 Amsterdam Ave
New York
NY 10027

tel:212 854-2490

fax:212 854-3609

email: Cate Peña