BRENDA ANDERSON, Ph.D. (University of Illinois, 1993)

  Associate Professor, Biopsychology
Dept. of Psychology >
State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY 11794-2500
TEL. NO: 631-632-7821

FAX:  631-632-7876


-If you need course information, go to Blackboard

Map to the Psychology Department at Stony Brook


      My lab is interested in understanding the biological basis for the effects of exercise and stress on mental health and cognition. I use voluntary and forced exercise in rats as a model for the effects of exercise on humans. I use corticosterone injections to mimic the effects of stress. My students and I use three general approaches toward our goals: behavioral analysis, quantitative anatomy and quantitative histochemistry.

     Behavioral approaches are used to establish effects of exercise on subsequent behavior in rats. Using the radial arm maze and the Barnes maze, we have tested whether exercise improves spatial memory. Using the Barnes maze and the Y-maze we have tested whether the stress-related hormone corticosterone impairs spatial memory (Coburn-Litvak et al., 2003). We have also tested whether corticosterone administered over long periods alters activity, exploration (Tata et al., submitted), anxiety and anhedonia (Gorby et al., in preparation). To the right is a picture of our open field.

     Quantitative anatomical analyses are used to determine whether or not exercise and stress-related hormones have an influence on capillary density, tissue volume and synaptic numbers in the brain. All of these variables would be expected to influence brain function and vulnerability. For example, we have recently shown that two-month administration of the stress-related hormone corticosterone (40 mg/kg) causes neuropil volume reduction and synapse loss in hippocampal area CA3 (Tata et al., in preparation).

      To the right is a set of micrographs used to count synapses. Synapses are characterized by two opposing membranes, with the presence of a post-synaptic density (dark and fuzzy), and the presence of at least three vesicles in the presynaptic process. The synapses in the left counting frame are numbered. Those that disappeared before the adjacent section are counted (see * in the right frame)

      To the right is a pair of micrographs with outlines of glial (dotted lines) and mitochondrial (solid lines) profiles. Moderate doses given for 2 months causes a loss of mitochondrial volume fraction (Coburn-Litvak et al., 2004) and high doses cause a reduction in glial and mitochondrial volume (Tata et al., in preparation).

     Quantitative histochemical analyses are used to investigate the possibility that the brain undergoes metabolic plasticity after chronic exercise or stress. We are currently testing whether chronic administration of corticosterone causes a reduction in bioenergetic capacity. If so, the results would suggest that long-term elevations in stress-related hormones would leave the hippocampus more vulnerable to metabolic challenge (e.g., excitotoxicity and ischemia)

      We have also shown that exercise increases bioenergetic capacity (cytochrome oxidase activity) in the motor cortex and dorsolateral striatum (McCloskey, Adamo and Anderson, 2001). We are currently investigating whether exercise provides protection from excitotoxicity.

      Our findings have implications for the impact that lifestyle choices have on brain aging.


-Tata, D. A., Kawashima, N., McCloskey, D. P., Gorby, H. E., and Anderson, B. J. Twenty one days of stress-related hormone administration decreases exploration in the rat, submitted.

-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.

India Ink protocol

-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. J., Gatley, S. J., Rapp, D., Coburn-Litvak, P. S., and Volkow, N. D. (2000) The influence of enriched environment on striatal D1/muscarinic receptor ratio in aging rats, Brain Research, 872, 262-265.

-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.

-Wong-Riley, M., Anderson, B., Liebl, W., and Huang, Z. (1998). Neurochemical organization of the macaque striate cortex: Correlation of cytochrome oxidase with Na+K+ATPase, NADPH-diaphorase, nitric oxide synthase, and N-Methyl-D-Aspartate receptor subunit 1. Neuroscience, 83, 1025-1045.

-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.


Anderson, B. and McCloskey, D. (2004). Susceptibility to prolonged seizures is related to amount of wheel running. Poster presented at the 37th annual Winter Conference on Brain Research, Copper Mountain, Colorado.

Gorby, H. E., Tata, D. A., and Anderson, B. J. (2003). Chronically elevated glucocorticoids produce transient anxiety and reduced activity, but do not induce anhedonia in rats. Poster presented at the 34th annual ISPNE Conference, New York City, New York.

Tata, D. A., and Anderson, B. J. (2003). Prolonged exposure to glucocorticoids reduce synapse numbers in the CA3 apical dendritic neuropil. Poster presented at the 34th annual ISPNE Conference, New York City, New York.

Anderson, B.J., Tata, D.A. Chronic administration of a high dose of corticosterone reduces synapse numbers in the apical dendritic neuropil of hippocampal CA3. Program N. 506.16. 2003 Abstract Viewer/Itinerary Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience

McCloskey, D. P., Bastien, N., Tata, D.A., Gorby, H.E., Hua, K., Anderson, B. J. Exercise is related to spatial memory performance, status epilepticus development, and hippocampal damage following kainic acid. Program N. 533.17. 2003 Abstract Viewer/Itinerary Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience

Tata, D.A., Kawashima, N., Gorby, H.E., McCloskey, D.P., Denn, J.J., Anderson, B.J. 21 days of corticosterone decreased exploration in the open-field but did not alter activity in the home cage. Program No. 614.9. 2003 Abstract Viewer/Itinerary Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience

Gorby, H.E., Tata, D.A., McCloskey, D.P., Park, P.J., Anderson, B.J. Chronically elevated glucocorticoids produce transient anxiety and reduced activity, but do not induce anhedonia. Program No. 711.11. 2003 Abstract Viewer/Itinerary Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience


Subcellular Imaging: A Comparative Study by NanoSIMS and Autoradiography. PIs: Ian Hutcheon, Peter Weber, Brenda Anderson, Anat Biegon (Subcontract from Lawrence Livermore National Labs).
Total Budget: $44,500 (4/15/04-9/30/04).

Can Exercise Protect the Brain from Stress-Related Hormones? (NIMH R01).
PI: Brenda Anderson. Total Budget: $293,678 (7/01/00-6/30/04).

Understanding of the complex relationship between stress related hormones, and hippocampal plasticity (Individual Development Award, USB/UUP). PI: Brenda Anderson, Total Budget: $397 (1/00-8/00).

Acquisition of a System for Combined Recording of fMRI and Event-Related Potentials in Humans (NSF 98-16, Major Research Instrumentation) PI: Nancy Squires. Co-PIs: Brenda Anderson, Jasper Brener, Charles Springer, Nora Volkow. Total Budget: $205,375 (09/01/98-09/01/99).

Is Brain Metabolism Influenced by Physical Activity? (NIMH/BSTART).
PI: Brenda Anderson. Total Budget $35,208.00 (09/01/97-02/30/99).


-Pamela Coburn-Litvak, National Research Service Award to study Glucocorticoids vs. Exercise in the Hippocampus, Sponsor: Brenda Anderson. Total budget: $58,752 (01/15/00-01/15/03).
-Rabia Razi: Howard Hughes Pre-college Freshman Summer Research Fellow, Summer 2000
-Sahid Khalsa: Howard Hughes Undergraduate Research Fellowship. $3,500 (Fall/Spring 2000/2001).
-Bonte Gbemudu, -Howard Hughes Pre-college Freshman Summer Research Fellow, Summer 2001
-Melissa Malkush, Simons High School Summer Research Fellow, Summer 2001
-Nella Bastien, -Minority Access to Research Careers Award (MARC), Fall/Spring, 2002/2003.
-Bonte Gbemudu, -Minority Access to Research Careers Award (MARC), 2003/2004
     -UNCF-Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship Award, $25,000 (2004-2005)
-Yumna Saeed, Lyman Fellow, 2003
-Despina Tata, -Frederick E. G. Valergakis Research Grant from the Hellenic University Club of New York, $1500 (2004)
     -2004 Madeline Fusco Fellowship Award
-Veronica Marciano, Howard Hughes Undergraduate Research Fellowship.$2,500+Room & Board (Summer 2004).

        **A list of scholarships available to graduate, undergraduate and high school students


Nefta Mitchell - Graduate Student, Biological Psychology
Janette Ponticello - Graduate Student

Student Resource Page


Pamela Coburn-Litvak Ph.D., 2001 Graduate of the Program in Neurobiology and Behavior. While Pam was in the lab, she was funded by a training grant to the Dept. of Neurobiology and an NRSA from NIMH. She is presently the Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor of Research Affairs, with a secondary appointment as Assistant Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology in the School of Medicine Loma Linda University

Daniel McCloskey Ph.D., 2003 Graduate of the Biopsychology Program , Recipient of the     Psychology Dept. Award for Innovations in Teaching, 2000, and for the Award for Excellence in Research, 2001. Dan is currently a postdoctoral fellow working with Helen Scharfman at Helen Hayes Hospital in affiliation with Columbia University.

Despina Tata, Ph.D., 2004 Graduate of Biopsychology Program, 2002 recipient of the department's Excellence in Research Award, 2004 recipient of the Frederick E. G. Valergakis Research Grant from the Hellenic University Club of New York, 2004 recipient of the President's Award for Distinguished Doctoral Students, 2004 recipient of the Madeline Fusco Fellowship

Heather Gorby, Ph.D., 2005 Graduate of the Biological Psychology Program, Currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the NIH.


             Undergraduate Research Opportunities at SUNY Stony Brook
                  Presenting research at Stony Brook:
                  -Celebration for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity
                  -Psi Chi Undergraduate Research Conference
                  -A Student Research Conference at The City College of New York: April 11-12, 2005

Michael Lynch, Fall 2005-present
Garvin Reid, Summer 2005-present
Jasnit Makkar, Fall 2004-present
Yue Zeng, 2004-
     -member of the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) Program
Veronica Marciano, Fall 2003-present
     -Howard Hughes Summer Research Fellow, 2004
Francisco Borja, summer 2003-2005
Christina Wong, Summer-Fall 2003
     -Recipient of the Undergraduate Recognition Award, 2004
Yumna Saeed, summer 2003
      -Lyman Fellowship for Pre-college Freshman, summer 2003
Bonte Gbemudu, spring 2003-present
     -MARC Fellow (2003-2004)
     -UNCF-Merck Undergraduate Fellow (2004-2005)
James Denn, summer 2002-spring 2003
     -winner of the 2003 Psi Chi Poster competition, SUNY Stony Brook
Nella Bastien, spring 2002-spring 2003
     -MARC Fellow (2002-2003)
Peter Park, summer/fall, 2002
Karen Amir, spring 2002
Lamya Touma, spring 2002
Michael Robinson, fall 2001-spring 2002
Joel Adler--2000-01, winner of the Psi Chi Poster competition
Marta Colon, fall 2001
Carolyn McIlree, Summer 2001
Bonte Gbemudu, summer 2001
     -Howard Hughes Pre-College Freshman, Summer 2001
Diana Lawrence, 1999-fall 2001


Melissa Malkush, Simon's Fellow,Summer 2001
Kerning Hua, Summer '02 to present

Anderson Lab in 2002-2003: (from left to right) Dan McCloskey, Heather Gorby, Brenda Anderson, Nella Bastien, Despina Tata, James Denn, and Grace Richardson

Anderson LAB in 2004-2005: (from left to right) Brenda Anderson, Jasnit Makkar, Francisco Borja, Veronica Marciano, Janette Ponticello (Missing: Nefta Mitchell)


Websites to improve study skills

-Psychology 201, Statistics--Fall 2003,see your blackboard account for course information Attendance will be required.

      Correlation--Grandmothers beware

      Topics in Statistical Data Analysis: Revealing Facts From Data. URL for the main site is:       "This site offers information on statistical data analysis. It describes time series analysis, popular distributions, and other topics. It examines the use of computers in statistical data analysis. It also lists related books and links to related Web sites. Professor Hossein Arsham"

       Statistical Toolbox

-Psychology 356, Physiological Psychology--Offered each Spring Semester, see your blackboard account for course information       Syllabus 04
      animation of vesicle fusion
-Psychology 561, Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience I, Fall 2003; Fall 2004
-Faculty Co-Sponsor for Neuroscience Axis, an organization for undergraduates interested in Neuroscience.       Neuroscience Axis Home Page

COS profile <

Return to Department of Psychology Home Page