Photo of Maya Opendak

Maya Opendak

Assistant Professor


707 North Broadway
Room 400R


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. 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.

Glasper ER, LaMarca EA, Bocarsly ME, Fasolino M, Opendak M, Gould E (2015). Sexual experience enhances cognitive flexibility and dendritic spine density in the medial prefrontal cortex. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 125: 73-79. PMID: PMC26188276. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2015.07.007


Cope E, Briones B, Brockett A, Vigneron P, Opendak M, Wang S S-H, Gould E (2016) Immature neurons and radial glia, but not astrocytes or microglia, are altered in adult Cntnap2 and Shank3 mice, models of autism. eNeuro, 3(5). PMCID: PMC5066262. doi:10.1523/ENEURO.0196-16.2016


Opendak M, Offit L, Monari P, Schoenfeld TJ, Sonti AN, Cameron HA, Gould E (2016) Lasting adaptations in social behavior produced by social disruption and inhibition of adult neurogenesis. The Journal of Neuroscience, 36(26):7027-38. PMCID: PMC4926244. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4435-15.2016


Santiago AN, Lim KY, Opendak M, Sullivan RM, Aoki C (2018) Early life trauma increases peri-weaning threat response through reduction of axo-somatic inhibition by PV cells and perineuronal nets in the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 526(16). doi: 10.1002/cne.24522


Cope EC, Opendak M, LaMarca EA, Murthy S, Leung J, Graham AL, Gould EA (2018) The effects of living in an outdoor enclosure on hippocampal plasticity and anxiety-like behavior in response to nematode infection. Hippocampus, 29(4) doi: 10.1002/hipo.23033


Opendak M, Zanca R, Anane E, Serrano PA, Sullivan RM (2018) Developmental transitions in amygdala memory molecules: PKC isoforms and AMPA receptors in infancy. Scientific Reports, 8(14679). doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-32762-y


Opendak M, Robinson-Drummer P*, Wood K, Zanca RM, Chan S, Woo J, Blomkvist A, Venkataraman G, Tan S, Kirchner E, Lundstrom J, Wilson DA, Serrano P, Sullivan RM (2019) Neurobiology of maternal regulation of infant fear: The role of mesolimbic dopamine and its disruption by maltreatment. Neuropsychopharmacology, 44(7):1247-1257. doi: 10.1038/s41386-019-0340-9 *Joint first-authorship.


Junod A, Opendak M*, LeDoux JE, Sullivan RM (2019) Development of threat expression following infant maltreatment: Infant and adult enhancement but adolescent attenuation. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 13:130. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00130 *Joint first-authorship.


Robinson-Drummer P, Opendak M*, Wood K, Chan S, Tan S, Blomkvist A, Sullivan RM (2019) Infant trauma alters social buffering of threat learning: Emerging role of prefrontal cortex in adolescence. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 13:132. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00132  *Joint first-authorship.


Lewin M, Lopachin J, Delorme J, Opendak M, Sullivan RM, Wilson DA (2019) Early life trauma has lifelong consequences for sleep and behavior. Scientific Reports 9, 16701. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-53241-y


Perry RE, Rincón-Cortès M, Braren SH, Brandes-Aitken AN, Opendak M, Pollonini G, Chopra D, Raver CC, Alberini CM, Blair C, Sullivan RM (2019) Corticosterone administration targeting a hypo-reactive HPA axis rescues a socially avoidant phenotype in scarcity-adversity reared rats. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 40:100716. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2019.100716


Perry RE, Rincón-Cortès M, Braren SH, Brandes-Aitken AN, Chopra D, Opendak M, Sullivan RM, Blair C (2019) Enhancing executive functions through social interactions: Causal evidence using a cross-species model.  Frontiers in Psychology, 10:2472. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02472


Raineki C, Opendak M*, Sarro E, Showler A, Bui K, McEwen BS, Wilson DA, Sullivan RM (2019) During infant maltreatment, stress targets hippocampus but stress with mother present targets amygdala and social behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(45):22821-22832. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1907170116   *Joint first-authorship.


Opendak M, Theisen E, Blomkvist A, Hollis K, Lind TE, Sarro E, Lundstrom JN, Tottenham N, Dozier M, Wilson D, Sullivan RM (2020) Adverse caregiving in infancy blunts neural processing of the mother. Nature Communications, 11(1):1119. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-14801-3.


Perry RE, Braren SH, Opendak M*, Brandes-Aitken AN, Chopra D, Woo J, Sullivan RM, Blair C (2021) Elevated infant cortisol is necessary but not sufficient for transmission of environmental risk to infant social development: Cross-species evidence of mother-infant physiological social transmission. Development & Psychopathology, 32:1696–1714 doi:10.1017/S0954579420001455    *Joint first-authorship.


Carcea I, López Caraballo N, Oyama R, Mendoza Navarro Joyce, Opendak M, Diaz V, Marlin BJ, Alvarado Torres MI, Lethin H, Ramos D, Mendoza SL, Mar A, Wadghiri YZ, Nishimori K, Kikusai T, Mogi K, Sullivan RM, and Froemke RC (2021) Oxytocin neurons enable social transmission of maternal behavior (2021) Nature, 596, 553–557. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03814-7.


Opendak M, Raineki C, Perry RE, Rincon-Cortes M, Song S, Zanca RM, Packard K, Hu S, Woo J, Martinez K, Vinod KV, Brown R, Deehan G, Froemke RC, Serrano PA, Wilson DA, Sullivan RM (2021) Bidirectional control of infant social behavior by dopaminergic innervation of the basolateral amygdala. Neuron. S0896-6273(21)00714-5 doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2021.09.041


Svalina M, Cea Del-Rio C, Kushner J, Levy A, Baca S, Guthman E, Opendak M, Sullivan RM, Restrepo D, Hunstman M (2022) Basolateral amygdala hyperexcitability is associated with precocious developmental emergence of fear-learning in Fragile X Syndrome. Journal of Neuroscience. 42(38):7294–308. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1776-21.2022.


Barr GA, Opendak M, Perry RE, Sarro E, Sullivan RM (2023) Infant Pain Vs. Pain with Parental Suppression: Immediate and Enduring Impact on Brain, Pain and Affect. PLoS One. 2023 Nov 16;18(11):e0290871. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0290871.


Cobb-Lewis D, George A, Hu S, Packard K, Song M, Nguyen-Lopez O, Tesone E, Rowden J, Wang J, Opendak M (2023) The lateral habenula integrates age and experience to promote social transitions in developing rats bioRxiv 2024.01.12.575446; doi: