Maya Opendak PhD

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
Telephone Number: 443-923-2693

Kennedy Krieger Institute
707 N. Broadway Street
Baltimore, MD 21205
Room: KKI, 400R

Areas of Research
Systems, Cognitive + Computational Neuroscience
Neural Circuits, Ensembles + Connectomes
Neurobiology of Disease
Developmental Neuroscience

Graduate Program Affiliations

Neuroscience Training Program

Building a Social Brain: Circuits and Systems Across Development

Disrupted social behavior is a core feature of compromised mental health, including anxiety and depression, and is a long-standing early diagnostic marker of disorders that emerge in later-life. Yet, we have little understanding of the ontogeny of social behavior neural circuits or how environmental perturbation at different stages of development impacts infant behavior. Using the infant rodent pup, my lab studies the specific infant neuroanatomical circuits that generate developmentally-appropriate social behavior and how these systems go awry following adversity. My team’s work examines how ethologically-relevant social challenges, such as social hierarchy disruption and abusive caregiving during infancy, produce profound changes in brain structure and function to modify behavior. 

My lab takes a unique approach by integrating state-of-the-art neurobiology techniques into the study of complex behavioral development across the lifespan. Recently, our team adapted optogenetics and in electrophysiology for use in the one-day-old rat pup. This permits us to probe how specific circuits control social behavior in the developing infant and how adversity re-programs this circuitry to impair behavior. Although our focus is socially-guided behavior, we collaborate with many neuroscientists studying the neurobiology of disease to understand how and when to identify early biomarkers of pathology. In addition to technical innovations, our team also seeks to improve the translational potential of our work through strong collaborations with clinicians and developmental psychologists. 

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