Skip to main content
Catherine Peña head shot photo

Catherine Peña, Ph.D.

Princeton University


Cate Peña is an Assistant Professor in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. Her research investigates how environmental experiences in early sensitive periods impact behavior via enduring transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms. As a graduate student at Columbia, Cate studied how maternal care influenced brain development and behavior. As a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Eric Nestler at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, she established a “two-hit” stress paradigm in mice ideal for investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms that mediate sensitization to future stress prior to onset of behavioral symptoms. Her postdoctoral work provided new evidence of sensitive windows for development of emotion regulation, and identified a novel molecular mechanism underlying the heightened risk for depression resulting from early life stress. Cate’s ongoing research applies genome-wide sequencing and bioinformatic analysis approaches to investigate the enduring impact of early life stress on genome-wide transcriptional and epigenetic changes within regions of the brain implicated in depression-like behavior.