Christoph Anacker, Ph.D.

Christoph Anacker, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurobiology in Psychiatry at Columbia University. He received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from King’s College London in the UK and completed postdoctoral fellowships in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Meaney at McGill University, where he studied early environmental effects on brain development and behavior, and in the laboratory of Dr. René Hen at Columbia University, where he studied neural network abnormalities in the brain that make individuals more vulnerable to the effects of stress. He received a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the NIH and started his own laboratory in early 2019. Dr. Anacker serves as a Co-Investigator for Project 2 of the Conte Center for Suicide Prevention by modeling early life stress in mice to investigate behavioral and molecular changes in key brain regions involved in cognitive function and emotional regulation.

Research Focus

The overall goal of Dr. Anacker’s translational research program is to develop new and improved strategies for detecting, treating, and preventing depression at an early stage by targeting brain abnormalities that cause the disorder. Dr. Anacker’s research focuses particularly on how experiences during early childhood can predispose individuals to developing psychiatric problems and higher levels of stress sensitivity later in life. He uses advanced neuroscience technology to address this question, for example by visualizing life brain cell activity in freely moving mice during and after stress and anxiety or depressive behaviors.

Select Publications

1. Anacker C.*, Luna V., Stevens G., Millette A., Shores R., Chen B., Hen R, Adult hippocampal neurogenesis confers stress resilience by inhibiting ventral dentate gyrus activity; Nature 2018; Jul,559(7712):98-102 

2. Anacker C.*, New insights into the mechanisms of fast-acting antidepressants: what we learn from scopolamine; (Invited Early Career Investigator Commentary); Biological Psychiatry 2018; Jan;1;83(1):e5-e7  

3. Zhang TY., Keown CL., Wen X., Li J., Vousden DA., Anacker C., Battacharyya U., Ryan R., Diorio J., O’Toole N., Lerch JP., Mukamel EA., Meaney MJ., Environmental enrichment increases transcriptional and epigenetic differentiation between mouse dorsal and ventral dentate gyrus neurons; Nature Communications, 2018 Jan 19;9(1):298-309

4. Anacker C.*, and Hen R, Adult hippocampal neurogenesis and cognitive flexibility – linking memory and mood; Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2017; Jun;18(6):335-346  

5. Anacker C., Scholz J., O’Donnell KJ., Allemang-Grand R., Diorio J., Bagot RC., Nestler E., Hen R., Lerch  JP., Meaney MJ., Neuroanatomic differences associated with stress susceptibility and resilience. Biological Psychiatry 2016; May 15;79(10):840-9.

6. Samuels BA, Anacker C, Hu A, Levinstein MR, Pickenhagen A, Tsetsenis T, Madroñal N, Donaldson ZR, Drew LJ, Dranovsky A, Gross CT, Tanaka KF, Hen R., 5-HT1A receptors on mature dentate gyrus granule cells are critical for the antidepressant response. Nature Neuroscience 2015; Nov;18(11):1606-16.

7. Anacker C., Denny CA., Hen R., Regulation of hippocampal memory traces by neurogenesis, Neurogenesis 2015; Sep 17;2(1):e1025180.

8. Anacker C., O’Donnell KJ., Meaney MJ., Early Life Adversity and the Epigenetic Programming of Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Function, Dialogues in Clin Neuroscience 2014, Sep;16(3):321-33

9. Anacker C.*, Fresh approaches to antidepressant drug discovery, Expert Opin Drug Discovery 2014, Apr;9(4):407-21

10. Anacker C.*, Cattaneo A., Musaelyan K., Zunszain PA., Horowitz M., Molteni R., Luoni A., Calabrese F., Tansey K., Gennarelli M., Thuret S., Price J., Uher R., Riva MA., Pariante CM.; Role for the kinase SGK1 in stress, depression, and glucocorticoid effects on hippocampal neurogenesis, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2013 May 21;110(21):8708-13

11. Anacker C.*, Cattaneo A., Luoni A., Musaelyan K., Zunszain PA., Milanesi E., Rybka J., Berry A., Cirulli F., Thuret S., Price J., Riva MA., Gennarelli M., Pariante CM.; Glucocorticoid-related molecular signaling pathways regulating hippocampal neurogenesis, Neuropsychopharmacology 2013; Apr;38(5):872-83.

12. Klengel T., Mehta D., Anacker C., Pruessner J., Pariante CM., Pace TW., Mercer K., Mayberg H.,  Bradley B., Nemeroff CB., Holsboer F., Heim CM., Ressler KJ., Rein T., Binder EB.; Allele-specific DNA de-methylation in FKBP5: a molecular mediator of gene x environment interactions in mood and anxiety disorders. Nature Neuroscience 2013; Jan;16(1):33-41

13. Anacker C. and Pariante CM.; Can adult neurogenesis buffer stress responses and depressive behaviour? Molecular Psychiatry 2012; Jan;17(1):9-10

14. Anacker C., Zunszain PA., Cattaneo A., Carvalho LA., Garabedian MJ., Thuret S., Price J., Pariante CM.; Antidepressants increase human hippocampal neurogenesis by activating the glucocorticoid receptor Molecular Psychiatry 2011; Jul;16(7):738-50.

15. Anacker C.*, Zunszain PA., Carvalho LA., Pariante CM.; The glucocorticoid receptor: pivot of depression and of antidepressant treatment? Psychoneuroendocrinology 2011; 36(3): 415-425.