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Heather Brenhouse

Heather Brenhouse

Associate Professor

Mailing Address:

125 NI (Nightingale Hall), Boston, MA 02115


  • Behavioral neuroscience, developmental neuroscience and psychology

We study the dynamic interaction between the brain, the body, and the environment throughout early life and adolescent development. Adverse or traumatic experience during early life is a known risk factor for the development of mental illness; however, the manifestation of disease does not typically occur until years after the adverse events occur. Using animal models with genetic, behavioral, and pharmacological manipulation, our laboratory investigates in why this occurs, and how we might prevent it.

Specifically, we research how early life stress alters the development of inhibitory interneurons within the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Since stress plays an important role in the interaction of the brain with our immune system, we measure how early life stress affects inflammatory responses and subsequently leads to PFC interneuron damage and behavioral dysfunction later in life. By manipulating early environment, receptor expression, or inflammatory molecules within the PFC, we can shed light on how (and when) the brain responds to developmental disturbances, and how these responses translate into vulnerability to psychiatric disorders.

Heather Brenhouse in the news


You’re a Baby. Your Parent just Threw a Slice of Cheese at You. Now What?

People all over the world are throwing slices of American cheese (which are pretty sticky, it turns out) at their unsuspecting babies, filming the babies’ reactions, and posting the videos online. But their reactions are to the sensations they are feeling, not to what just happened.