Brenda Anderson, Ph.D.

University of Illinois (1993)


Office: Psychology B-216

Phone: (631) 632-7821


Associate Professor, Integrative Neuroscience

Research Interests:

Exercise, Stress, Anatomical plasticity, Quantitative Neuroanatomy

Current Research:

Brenda Anderson's lab focuses on the role the environment plays in shaping behavior and the brain. In the past we have studied exercise effects on learning, anatomy, and vulnerability to seizures.

More recently, we have developed a novel living environment for rats that will allow us to systematically manipulate environmental factors implicated in stress. Our first use of this platform has been to test the effects of psychological stress by presenting repeated unpredictable threats without harm.  Repeated  unpredictable threats (uncertainty) enhanced defensive behaviors, elevated baseline startle and impaired learning in neutral environments. Overall, this pattern of effects matches hypervigilance, a core feature of PTSD.

The lab uses the following methods:

A broad set of behavioral measures. Cytochrome oxidase histochemistry as a measure of metabolic plasticity. Stereological methods for quantitative measures at the light and electron microscopic level of analysis.

Representative Publications:

D.J. Kim, A.S. Lee, A.A. Yttredahl, R. Gómez-Rodríguez, B.J. Anderson (2017). Repeated threat (without direct harm) alters metabolic capacity in select regions that drive defensive behavior, Neuroscience, 353,106-118

Kim, D.J., St. Louis, N., Molaro, R.A., Hudson, G.T., Chorley, R.C., and Anderson, B.J. (2017).  Repeated unpredictable threats without harm impair spatial working memory in the Barnes maze, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 137:92-100.

Kim, D.J. and Anderson, B. J. (2015). Repeated threat (without harm) in a living environment potentiates defensive behavior, Behavioral Brain Research, 279: 31-40.  

Anderson, B. J.  (2011). Plasticity of gray matter volume:  The cellular and synaptic plasticity that underlies volumetric change, Developmental Psychobiology, 53:456-65.

Anderson, B. J. and Greenwood, S.J.  (2010).  Exercise as an intervention for the age-related decline in neural metabolic support. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2, 30.

Tata, D.A. and Anderson, B.J.  (2009).  The effects of chronic glucocorticoid exposure on dendritic length, synapse numbers and glial volume in animal models: implications for hippocampal volume reductions in depression.  Physiology and Behavior, 99(2), 186-193.

Tata, D.A., Marciano, V., and Anderson, B.J.  (2006)  Synapse loss from chronically elevated glucocorticoids:  Relationship to neuropil volume, and cell number in hippocampal CA3, J. Comparative Neurology, 498, 363-374.

Coburn-Litvak, P.S. , Tata, D.A., Gorby, H.E., McCloskey, D.P., Richardson, G., and Anderson, B.J. (2004). Chronic corticosterone affects brain weight, and mitochondrial, but not glial volume fraction in area CA3, Neuroscience, 124:429-436.

Anderson, B.J., McCloskey, D.P., Tata, D.A., Gorby, H. (2003) Physiological Psychology: Biological and Behavioral Outcomes of Exercise. In S.F. Davis (Ed.), Handbook in Experimental Psychology. Blackwell Press, pp. 323-345

Coburn-Litvak,P.S., Pothakos, K., Tata, D.A., McCloskey, D.P., and Anderson, B.J. (2003). Chronic administration of corticosterone impairs spatial reference memory before spatial working memory in rats, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 80:11-23.

Anderson, B. J., Relucio, K. I., Eckburg, P. B. (2002). Exercise and motor skill learning increase the thickness of the motor cortex, Learning and Memory, 9(1):1-9.

Tata, D. and Anderson, B.J.  (2002). A new method for the investigation of capillary structure, Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 113(2):197-204.

McCloskey, D. P., Adamo, D., Anderson, B. J. (2001) Exercise Increases Metabolic Capacity in the Motor Cortex and Striatum, but not in the Hippocampus, Brain Research, 891(1-2):168-175.

Anderson, B., Rapp, D., Baek, D., Coburn-Litvak, P., McCloskey, D., and Robinson, J. (2000) Exercise influences 8-arm radial maze performance, Physiology and Behavior, 70(5), 425-429.

Anderson, B., Relucio, K., Haglund, K., Logan, C., Knowlton, C., Thompson, J., Steinmetz, J., Thompson, R., Greenough, W. (1999). The effects of paired and unpaired eyeblink conditioning on the morphology of Purkinje cells, Learning and Memory, 6, 128-137.

Anderson, B., J., Alcantara, A. A., and Greenough, W. T.(1996) Motor Skill Learning:  Changes in synaptic organization of the rat cerebellar cortex. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 66, 221-229.

Anderson, B., Li, X., Alcantara, A., Isaacs, K., Black, J., Greenough, W. T. (1994). Glial hypertrophy is associated with synaptogenesis following motor-skill learning, but not with angiogenesis following exercise, Glia 11(1), 73-80.

Isaacs, K. R., Anderson, B. J., Alcantara, A. A., Black, J. E., Greenough, W. T. (1992). Exercise and the brain: Angiogenesis in the adult rat cerebellum after vigorous physical activity and motor skill learning, Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow, Metabolism, 12, 110-119.

Black, J. E., Isaacs, K. R., Anderson, B. J., Alcantara, A. A., Greenough, W. T. (1990). Learning causes synaptogenesis, whereas motor activity causes angiogenesis, in cerebellar cortex of adult rats, Proc. Natl. Acad. of Sci.USA , 87, 5568-5572.

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