Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Anesthesia Faculty Scholarship Newsletter

Research Highlights


Center for Stress Neurobiology


Seema Bhatnagar, PhD, Associate Professor Anesthesiology and Critical Care, at CHOP, is trying to understand why some individuals are vulnerable to the effects of stress and go on to develop stress-related psychiatric disorders such as depression and PTSD while others are resilient to the effects of stress.

To address this goal, the Bhatnagar lab seeks to define the neural circuits that promote fundamental adaptations to repeated stress and to identify the changes in these circuits that either promote resilience or produce vulnerability, using preclinical rodent models.


The program is organized around three programmatic themes:

  • defining the neural circuits that regulate adaptations to stress
  • identifying the neural substrates underlying individual differences in response to stress
  • studying individual differences in the context of biological sex

Seema’s lab uses multidisciplinary techniques in these preclinical studies, from conventional behavioral neuroscience techniques to cutting-edge chemogenetic and virally-mediated tools. This approach has allowed us to effectively dissect the neural circuits mediating adaptations to stress and to identify potential novel targets and biomarkers of vulnerability or resilience to stress.

Collectively, Seema has contributed significantly to the current understanding of how organisms adapt to stress and to the development of avenues to promoting resilience to stress.

Through active, ongoing collaborations, Seema also seeks to translate the results of these preclinical studies to the bedside. The goal of these collaborations is to identify neural targets that can be transformed into novel treatment strategies and to identify readily translatable biomarkers that can predict vulnerability to stress or identify individuals adversely impacted by stress.

Ongoing studies are examining multimodal biomarkers of sleep loss in human subjects, and biomarkers of symptom severity in veterans with PTSD and in active duty marines with traumatic brain injury. Her research program has been funded by NIMH, NSF, DARPA/Department of Defense, NASA and the pharmaceutical industry.