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Henriette van Praag, Ph.D., Investigator
Head, Neuroplasticity and Behavioral Unit
Laboratory of Neurosciences
Biomedical Research Center
251 Bayview Blvd, Suite 100
Baltimore MD 21224
410-558-8064 (office)
301-281-1707 (cell)
Biography: Henriette van Praag received her Ph.D. from the Department of Psychobiology at Tel-Aviv University in 1992 for her work studying the development of opiate receptor function with Dr. Hanan Frenk. She did her postdoctoral research on the role of nerve growth factors in brain injury at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey with Dr. Ira Black from 1992-1997. She continued her research in brain regeneration as a staff scientist with Dr. Fred Gage in the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California from 1997-2007. Specifically, she researched the regulation of the birth of new neurons in the adult hippocampus, a brain area that is important in learning and memory, and made significant discoveries pertaining to the regulation of neurogenesis by exercise and the functional integration of new neurons into the hippocampus.
Research Overview: Most neurons in the adult central nervous system are terminally differentiated and cannot be replaced when they die. However, research over the past decade has shown that small populations of new neurons are generated in the mature olfactory bulb and hippocampus. Interestingly, the production and survival of newborn cells can be regulated by a variety of environmental and neurochemical stimuli. In particular, voluntary exercise in a running wheel is correlated with increased hippocampal neurogenesis, enhanced synaptic plasticity and improved performance in a spatial maze in adult rodents. It is the aim of our research to understand this unexpected form of plasticity of the adult central nervous system and to begin to define underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms. It is our hope that this work may lead to methods of replacing or enhancing brain tissues lost or damaged due to neurodegeneration or injury.
Use of viral vectors to study hippocampal circuitry in vivo.  Dentate gyrus granule cell neurons are labeled with lentivirus expressing green fluorescent protein. Direct inputs to these neurons are identified by using modified rabies virus expressing mCherry as a retrograde tracer.
Image of "seahorse"
Retroviral labeling of neural progenitor cells allows for investigation of the function of newborn


Retroviral labeling of neural progenitor cells allows for investigation of the function of newborn
neurons in the adult mammalian brain.

Exercise increases cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the adult mouse hippocampus and spatial learning in the Morris water maze.

Exercise increases cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the adult mouse hippocampus (van Praag et al., Nature Neuroscience, 1999).
Exercise improved spatial pattern separation in a task where the amount of newly born neurons
Exercise improved spatial pattern separation in a task where the amount of newly born neurons
correlated with performance. Here, a mouse chooses between two similar objects in close
proximity to one another and has learned that only one of the objects is reinforced with a food
reward. The photomicrograph shows double-labeling for NeuN (Red) and BrdU (Green) in the
mouse dentate gyrus.
Link to the Journal Brain Plasticity:
Selected Publications:
  • Guerrieri D, van Praag H. Exercise-mimetic AICAR transiently benefits brain function. In press [Abs]

  • Stringer TP, Guerrieri D, Vivar C, van Praag H. Plant-derived flavanol (-)epicatechin mitigates anxiety in association with elevated hippocampal monoamine and BDNF levels, but does not influence pattern separation in mice. Transl. Psychiatry 2015;5:e493. doi: 10.1038/tp.2014.135. [Abs]

  • Zhang Z, van Praag H. Maternal immune activation differentially impacts mature and adult-born hippocampal neurons in male mice. Brain Behav. Immun. 2014  pii: S0889-1591(14)00507-8. [Abs]

  • van Praag H, Fleshner M, Schwartz MW, Mattson MP. Exercise, energy intake, glucose homeostasis, and the brain. J. Neurosci. 2014; 34(46):15139-15149. [Abs]

  • Moon HY, van Praag H. Muscle over mind. Cell Metab. 2014; 20(4):560-562. [Abs]

  • Kobilo T., Guerrieri D., Zhang Y., Collica S., Becker K.G., van Praag H. AMPK agonist AICAR improves cognition and motor coordination in young and aged mice, Learning and Memory, 119-126, 2014. [Abs]

  • Voss MW, Vivar C, Kramer AF, van Praag H. Bridging animal and human models of exercise-induced brain plasticity. Trends Cognitive Sciences 17(10):525-544, 2013. Feature Review. [Abs]

  • Vivar C. and van Praag, H. Functional circuits of new neurons in the dentate gyrus. Frontiers in Neural Circuits, doi:10.3389/fncir.2013.00015, 2013. [Abs]

  • Marlatt MW, Potter MC, Lucassen PJ, van Praag H. Running throughout middle-age improves memory function, hippocampal neurogenesis, and BDNF levels in female C57BL/6J mice. Dev Neurobiol. 2012 Jun;72(6):943-52. [Abs]

  • Vivar C, Potter MC, Choi J, Lee JY, Stringer TP, Callaway EM, Gage FH, Suh H, van Praag H. Monosynaptic inputs to new neurons in the dentate gyrus. Nat Commun. 2012 Oct 2;3:1107. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2101. [Abs]

  • Kobilo, T., Liu, Q.R., Gandhi, K., Mughal, M., Shaham, Y., van Praag, H. Running is the neurogenic and neurotrophic stimulus in environmental enrichment. Learning and Memory, 18:605-609, 2011. [Abs]

  • Kobilo T, Yuan C, van Praag H. Endurance factors improve hippocampal neurogenesis and spatial memory in mice. Learning and Memory, 18:103-107, 2011. [Abs]

  • Potter MC, Yuan C, Ottenritter C, Mughal M, van Praag H. Exercise is not beneficial and may accelerate symptom onset in a mouse model of Huntington's disease. PLoS Curr. 7;2:RRN1201, 2010. [Abs]

  • Marlatt MW, Lucassen PJ, van Praag H. Comparison of neurogenic effects of fluoxetine, duloxetine and running in mice. Brain Res, 2010. [Abs]

  • Kannangara TS, Lucero MJ, Gil-Mohapel J, Drapala RJ, Simpson JM, Christie BR,  van Praag H. Running reduces stress and enhances cell genesis in aged mice. Neurobiol Aging 2010. [Abs]

  • Creer DJ, Romberg C, Saksida LM, van Praag H, Bussey TJ. Running Enhances Spatial Pattern Separation in Mice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(5):2367-2372, 2010. [Abs]

  • van Praag H. Exercise and the brain: something to chew on. Trends in Neurosciences, 32: 283-290, 2009. [Abs]

  • van Praag H. Neurogenesis and Exercise: Past and Future Directions. Neuromolecular Med. 10(2):128-40, 2008. [Abs]

  • van Praag H, Lucero MJ, Yeo GW, Stecker K, Heivand N, Zhao C, Yip E, Afanador M, Schroeter H, Hammerstone J, Gage FH. Plant-derived flavanol (-)epicatechin enhances angiogenesis and retention of spatial memory in mice. J Neurosci. 2007;27(22):5869-5878. [Abs]
  • Toni N, Teng EM, Bushong EA, Aimone JB, Zhao C, Consiglio A, van Praag H, Martone ME, Ellisman MH, Gage FH. Synapse formation on neurons born in the adult hippocampus. Nat Neurosci. 2007;10(6):727-734. [Abs]
  • van Praag H, Shubert T, Zhao C, Gage FH. Exercise enhances learning and hippocampal neurogenesis in aged mice. J Neurosci. 2005;25(38):8680-8685.[Abs]
  • Farmer J, Zhao X, van Praag H, Wodtke K, Gage FH, Christie BR. Effects of voluntary exercise on synaptic plasticity and gene expression in the dentate gyrus of adult male Sprague-Dawley rats in vivo. Neuroscience. 2004;124(1):71-79. [Abs]
  • Rhodes JS, van Praag H, Jeffrey S, Girard I, Mitchell GS, Garland T Jr, Gage FH. Exercise increases hippocampal neurogenesis to high levels but does not improve spatial learning in mice bred for increased voluntary wheel running. Behav Neurosci. 2003;117(5):1006-1016. [Abs]
  • Brown J, Cooper-Kuhn CM, Kempermann G, Van Praag H, Winkler J, Gage FH, Kuhn HG. Enriched environment and physical activity stimulate hippocampal but not olfactory bulb neurogenesis. Eur J Neurosci. 2003;17(10):2042-2046. [Abs]
  • van Praag H, Schinder AF, Christie BR, Toni N, Palmer TD, Gage FH. Functional neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus. Nature. 2002;415(6875):1030-1034. [Abs]
  • Allen DM, van Praag H, Ray J, Weaver Z, Winrow CJ, Carter TA, Braquet R, Harrington E, Ried T, Brown KD, Gage FH, Barlow C. Ataxia telangiectasia mutated is essential during adult neurogenesis. Genes Dev. 2001;15(5):554-566. [Abs]
  • van Praag H, Christie BR, Sejnowski TJ, Gage FH. Running enhances neurogenesis, learning, and long-term potentiation in mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1999;96(23):13427-13431. [Abs]
  • van Praag H, Kempermann G, Gage FH. Running increases cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the adult mouse dentate gyrus. Nat Neurosci. 1999;2(3):266-270. [Abs]
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