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Nicole Ferrara, PhD

Nicole Ferrara, PhD
Assistant Professor

Physiology & Biophysics Discipline

Center for Neurobiology of Stress Resilience and Psychiatric Disorders


Social engagement and the ability to form and retain fear memories change over the course of the lifespan. These behaviors are both sensitive to and regulated by the environment, especially during development. Brain maturation coincides with the developmental transitions in environmental sensitivity that impacts subsequent fear and social behaviors. Our goal is to understand the interaction between the environment, fear, and social behaviors and how these factors are influenced by maturing neural processes. To do this, we investigate the role of affective neural circuits in 1) environmentally-driven changes in social behaviors during development and 2) fear memory regulation and updating.


  • Ferrara NC, Trask S, Ritger A, Padival M, & Rosenkranz JA. (In press). Brief isolation impacts distinct amygdala projection neurons in adults and adolescents. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
  • Ferrara NC, Trask S, Yan L, Padival M, Helmstetter FJ, & Rosenkranz JA. (2022). Isolation driven changes in microglia morphology underlie social recognition memory in adults and adolescents. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 192: 107626. PMID: 35545212.
  • Loh MK, Ferrara NC, Torres J, & Rosenkranz JA. (2022). Medial orbitofrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens mediation in risk assessment behaviors in adolescents and adults. In Press at Neuropsychopharmacology. PMID: 35039643.
  • Ferrara NC, Trask S, Avonts B, Loh M, Padival M, & Rosenkranz JA. (2021). Developmental shifts in amygdala activity during a high social drive state. The Journal of Neuroscience, 41(45): 9308-9325. PMID: 34611026.
  • Ferrara NC*, Trask S*, Pullins SE, & Helmstetter FJ. (2021). Regulation of learned fear expression through the MgN-amygdala pathway. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 185: 107526. PMID:34562619. (* Authors contributed equally).
  • Trask S, Ferrara NC, Grisales K, & Helmstetter FJ. (2021). Optogenetic inhibition of either the anterior or the posterior retrosplenial cortex disrupts retrieval of a trace, but not delay, fear memory. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 185: 107530. PMID: 34592468.
  • Trask S, Pullins S, Ferrara NC, & Helmstetter FJ. (2021). The anterior retrosplenial cortex encodes event-related information and the posterior retrosplenial cortex encodes context-related information during memory formation. Neuropsychopharmacology, 46(7): 1386-1392; PMID: 33580135.
  • Trask S, Ferrara NC, Jasnow AM, & Kwapis JL. (2021). Contributions of the cingulate-retrosplenial cortical axis to associative learning and memory. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 130: 178-184; PMID: 34450181.
  • Gilmartin MR & Ferrara NC. (2021). Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide (PACAP) in Learning and Memory. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 15: 663418. PMID: 34239418.
  • Ferrara NC, Trask S, & Rosenkranz JA. (2021). Maturation of amygdala inputs regulate shifts in social and fear behaviors: A substrate for developmental effects of stress. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 125: 11-25; PMID: 33581221.
  • Ferrara NC, Mrackova E, Loh MK, Padival M, & Rosenkranz JA. (2020). Fear learning enhances prefrontal cortical suppression of auditory thalamic inputs to the amygdala in adults but not adolescents. The International Journal of Molecular Science, 21(8): 3008; PMID: 32344598.
  • Trask S, Reis DS, Ferrara NC, & Helmstetter FJ. (2020). Decreased cued fear discrimination learning in female rats as a function of estrous phase. Learning & Memory, 27(6): 254-257; PMID: 32414943. 
  • Munshi S, Loh M, Ferrara NC, MR DeJoseph, Ritger A, Padival M, Record MJ, Urban JH, & Rosenkranz JA. (2019). Repeated stress induces a pro-inflammatory state, increases amygdala neuronal and microglial activation, and causes anxiety in adult male rats. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 84: 180-199; PMID: 31785394.
  • Ferrara NC*, Jarome TJ*, Cullen PK, Orsi SA, Kwapis, JL, Trask S, Pullins SE, & Helmstetter FJ. (2019). GluR2 endocytosis-dependent protein degradation in the amygdala mediates memory updating. Scientific Reports, 9(1): 5180; PMID: 30914678. (*Authors contributed equally).
  • Ferrara NC, Trask S, Pullins SE, & Helmstetter FJ. (2019). The dorsal hippocampus mediates synaptic destabilization and memory lability in the amygdala in the absence of contextual novelty. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 166: 107089; PMID: 31563610.
  • Kwapis JL, Jarome TJ, Ferrara NC, & Helmstetter FJ. (2017). Updating procedures can reorganize the neural circuit supporting a fear memory. Neuropsychopharmacology, 42(8): 1688-1697; PMID: 28139682.
  • Cullen PK, Ferrara NC, Pullins SE, Helmstetter FJ. (2017). Context memory formation requires activity-dependent protein degradation in the hippocampus. Learning & Memory, 21(11): 589-596; PMID: 29038220.
  • Ferrara NC, Cullen PK, Pullins SE, Rotondo EK, & Helmstetter FJ. (2017). Input from the medial geniculate nucleus modulates amygdala encoding of fear memory discrimination. Learning & Memory, 24(9): 414-421; PMID: 28814467.