Kimberly D'Anna-Hernandez
Kimberly D'Anna-Hernandez
Assistant Professor of Psychology

Office: SBSB 3229
Phone: 760-750-8275
Hours: M 3:00-3:50PM, W 9:00-10:00AM
HomeEducationResearchCoursesVitaeHuman LabMouse Lab

Kimberly L. D'Anna-Hernandez, Ph.D. I joined the CSUSM  Psychology faculty in the Fall of 2011; my area of specialization is behavioral neuroscience. I completed my predoctoral work at Michigan State University and postdoctoral training with the Developmental Psychobiology Research Group at the University of Colorado Denver. Among my research interests are the role of stress/arousal peptides on maternal behavior in mice and the role of acculturation and other psychosocial measures on the biological response to stress in pregnant women, particularly Mexican and Mexican-American women.

Maternal Behavior Neuroendocrinology Lab

Picture of KDH Lab as of Spring 2016

Maternal Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Lab will be accepting one graduate student beginning in 2017 

MOMS Cultural Maternal Behavior Lab

MOMS Cultural Maternal Behavior Lab Picture.


2008      Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison; Zoology, Behavioral              Neuroscience

                      Advisor: Dr. Stephen Gammie, PhD                                                        

2003      B.S., Michigan State University; Zoology, Animal Behavior/Neurobiology


2010      Developmental Psychobiology Research Group Postdoctoral Fellow,              University of Colorado Denver

2008      National Science Foundation Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellow

2007      Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship

2006      Diversity Program in Neuroscience Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, American              Psychological Association

2006      Business Forum Scholarship, Dane County Women's Business Forum

2003      Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, University of Wisconsin

Current Research

Mothers are essential to offspring well-being and survival. As such, situations that disrupt the maternal-infant bond (e.g. maternal depression, drug use) can be devastating to the health and welfare of offspring, and even fatal. Thus, it is important to identify factors that may motivate mothers to perform nurturing offspring-directed care. In the perinatal period, there are many neuromechanistic changes, such as alterations in the vigilance and reward systems in the brain that may motivate mothers to engage in maternal behavior. My long-term research objective is to use both behavioral and physiological measures to assess the impact of the prenatal environment (arousal, stress, mood, neuroendrocrine regulation) on subsequent developmental trajectories of offspring related to the vulnerability of depression.

Specifically I am interested in investigating the effects of acculturation in the US Mexican population on adverse perinatal outcomes via markers of prenatal stress and depression. My postdoctoral work demonstrated that acculturation (the adaptation of one culture to the norms of a majority culture) is associated with dysregulation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis during pregnancy that may lead to negative perinatal outcomes in the US Mexican population. I am now moving to investigate physiological and behavioral outcomes in children. As well, in postdoc, I was involved in developing and validating a new technique to measure chronic stress via cortisol in hair samples collected from mothers during the prenatal period. My current research seeks to examine maternal acculturative stress and depressive symptoms in the pregnant Mexican-American population and how this affects fetal programming of the HPA-axis in infants using this new method. While maternal HPA-axis functioning has been shown to lead to alterations in offspring HPA-functioning and increases in pathology later in life, there is no research examining the role of the fetal stress system. Thus, with this new method to obtain non-invasive long-term measures of cortisol obtained from maternal and infant hair (which is retrospectively representative of fetal cortisol levels); I can elucidate the relationship between the maternal-fetal stress systems and the subsequent contribution to childhood outcomes. I am actively collecting and analyzing hair samples from both mothers and their neonates. These data will help to refine my ideas about how stress is interpreted in the US Mexican population, identify cultural protective factors and inform my future research to test this paradigm in other racial/ethnic groups.

To do this I maintain both a mouse and human maternal behavior lab. The mouse lab involves a variety of behavioral (e.g. maternal behavior testing and stress-anxiety measures) as well as physiological measures looking at how the neurobiology of arousal and stress related peptides in the brain affect maternal behavior. As this type of work requires a lot of manpower, I am always looking for reliable and motivated students to assist with my research. Links for respective lab applications can be found below.

Mouse Lab Application

Human Lab Application

Psyc 391 Laboratory in Physiological Psychology: Teaches advanced research methods in physiological processes underlying brain function and behavior as well as application of methodological principles to research in such areas as neuroanatomy, physiology, behavioral neuroscience and psychopharmacology.

Psyc 360 Biopsychology: Introduction to the biological bases of behavior, including material central to physiological psychology, comparative psychology, behavioral genetics, and sensory psycho­logy. Issues to be addressed include but are not limited to neuroethology, behavioral endocrinology, evolutionary theory, sociobiology, and sensory systems.

Psyc 361 Brain and Mind: Examines the relationship between the brain, and how the brain produces behavior. Intended for non-majors, this course will review basic neuroanatomy and physiology, and consider mind/brain relations in the context of psychoactive drugs, brain development, neurological disorders, sexual behavior, and cognitive abilities such as language, memory, thinking, and consciousness.

My current CV


(*-denotes work with trainee coauthors)

Preciado, A.* & D’Anna-Hernandez, K.L. (2016) Acculturative stress and trajectory of anxiety symptoms during pregnancy in Mexican-American women. Journal of Anxiety Disorders: in press.


Hoffman, M.C., D’Anna-Hernandez, K.L., Benitez, P., & Laudenslager, M.L. (2016). Cortisol during human fetal life: Characterization of a method for processing small quantities of newborn hair from 26 to 42 weeks gestation. Developmental Psychobiology: in press.

D’Anna-Hernandez, KL, Garcia, E*, Hoffman, MC, Ross, RG, and Laudenslager, ML. (2016). Alterations in sleep patterns lead to adverse birth outcomes in Mexican-American women. Maternal and Child Health: 20(2): 422-433.

D’Anna-Hernandez, KL, Aleman, B, Flores, AM. (2015) Acculturative stress, but not acculturation, predicts maternal depression in Mexican-American women during pregnancy. Journal of Affective Disorders: 176: 35-42.

D’Anna, KL, Hunter, SK, Zerbe, GO and Ross, RG (2013). Paternal substance abuse disorders worsen the trajectory of maternal depressive symptoms during the first year postpartum, Mental Illness: 5:e1.

*Hunter SK, Mendoza JH, D'Anna K, Zerbe G, McCarthy L, Hoffman C, Freedman R, Ross RG (2012). Antidepressants may mitigate the effects of prenatal maternal anxiety on infant auditory sensory gating. American Journal of Psychiatry: 169(6): 616-624.

D’Anna-Hernandez, KL, Hoffman , MC, Coussons-Read, ME, Laudenslager, ML, and Ross, RG. (2012). Maternal blunted cortisol slope during pregnancy is associated with acculturation and low infant birth weight in US Mexican women, Psychosomatic Medicine: 74(3):296-304

*Coussons-Read, ME, Lobel, MJ, Carey, JC, Kreither, MO, D’Anna, KL, Argys, L., Ross, RG, Brandt, C, Cole, S. (2012). The occurrence of preterm delivery is linked to pregnancy-specific distress and elevated inflammatory markers across gestation. Brain Behavior and Immunity: 26(4): 650-659.

D’Anna-Hernandez, KL, Ross, RG, Natvig CL, and Laudenslager, MLL. (2011). Hair cortisol levels as a marker of stress during pregnancy: Comparison to salivary cortisol, Physiology and Behavior. 104(2): 348-353.

Gammie SC, D’Anna KL, Gerstein H, Stevenson SA. (2009). Neurotensin inversely modulates maternal aggression. Neuroscience. 158(4): 1215-23.

D'Anna KL and Gammie SC. (2009). Activation of corticotropin-releasing factor receptor 2 in lateral septum negatively regulates maternal defense. Behavioral Neuroscience. 123(2): 356-68.

D'Anna KL, Stevenson SA, Gammie SC. (2008). Maternal profiling of corticotropin-releasing factor receptor 2 deficient mice in association with restraint stress. Brain Research. 1241: 110-21.

*Gammie SC, Edelmann MN, Mandel-Brehm C, D'Anna KL, Auger AP, Stevenson SA. (2008). Altered dopamine signaling in naturally occurring maternal neglect. PLoS ONE. 3(4): e1974.

D’Anna KL and Gammie SC. (2006). Hypocretin-1 dose-dependently modulates maternal behaviour in mice. Journal of Neuroendocrinology. 18(8):553-66.

D’Anna, KL., Stevenson, SA and Gammie, SC. (2005). Urocortin 1 and Urocortin 3 impair maternal defense behavior in mice. Behavioral Neuroscience, 119(4):1061-71.

Gammie SC, Hasen NS, Stevenson SA, Bale TL, D’Anna, KL. (2005). Elevated stress sensitivity in corticotropin-releasing factor receptor 2 deficient mice decreases maternal, but not intermale aggression. Behavioural Brain Research, 160(1):169-77.

Book Chapters and Reviews

Gammie, SC, D’Anna, KL, Lee, G, Stevenson, SA. 2008. Role of Corticotropin releasing factor-related peptides in the neural regulation of maternal defense. In R.S. Bridges (Eds.), Neurobiology of Parental Brain. Elsevier. 101-114

D’Anna-Hernandez, KL. The Oxford Handbook of Psychoneuroimmunology Book Review. Brain, Behavior and Immunity: in press.

MOMS Cultural Maternal Behavior Lab



 Eva Urbina 

Eva Urbina

Graduate Student, Experimental Psychological Science, 2017

This fall I will be a second year graduate student at CSUSM, working toward my master's degree in psychological science. My thesis will focus on how cultural stressors in mothers affect infant outcomes, early health trajectories, and how it may be related to obesity rates. My ultimate goal is to earn a PhD in psychology with a focus on health.

Maria Cole

Graduate Student, Experimental Psychological Science, 2017

Jennifer Lobos

Jennifer Lobos, BA

Graduate Student, Psychological Science, 2018

I received my B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside in 2015.  I am currently a first year graduate student interested in better understanding prenatal programming of mental illnesses and depression risk in children born to Mexican and Mexican American women.  My goal is to go on to a Clinical PhD program where I can continue my research on the development and etiology of depression and other forms of psychopathology within minority communities.

Raquel Good

Raquel Good, BA

Graduate Student, Psychological Science, 2018

I graduated from UC San Diego with a BA in psychology and worked in a research lab studying PTSD for several years before and after graduating. I have also had the opportunity to gain experience in labs that study social psychology, cognitive science, and neuropsychology.  My next steps are to complete a PhD and I ultimately plan to stay in research as a PI and professor. My broad research interests are in the field of trauma. My current work is focused on decreasing stress and mediating health outcomes in pregnant Mexican-American women with gestational diabetes.

Amiel Maldonado     

Amiel Maldonado

Junior Undergraduate, Business Administration & Child and Adolescent Development, 2017

I started working at the Mom Lab in January of 2016. I am interested in research regarding minority health discrepancies, specifically of children from low SES backgrounds. I plan to pursue a Masters degree in Public Health.

 Guadalupe Chim

Guadalupe Chim

Senior Undergraduate, Human Development, 2016

Plans to attend graduate school fall 2017 with a masters in social work /public health.

Junue Hernandez

Junue Hernandez

Junior Undergradute, Psychological Science, 2019

Planning to attend graduate school after graduating from CSU San Marcos.

Paola Illescas

 Paola Ilescas

Senior Undergraduate, Major Psychology, Minor Anthropology, 2017.

I hope that someday I can be a public health promoter in the rural, indigenous villages of Oaxaca focusing on women's reproductive and sexual well-being.

 Selina Gonzales 

Selina Gonzales

Sophomore Undergraduate, Major Biology, Minor Chemistry, 2019

My academic and professional goal is to obtain a Ph.D in the Biological Sciences after graduating from CSUSM with my BS.

Past Members

Graduate Members

Adrianna Maldonado, MA
Community and Behavioral Health PhD program at University of Iowa
Ana-Mercedes Flores, MA
Currently in a Clinical PhD program at Eastern Michigan University
Andrea Preciado, MA
Esmerelda Garica, MA
Currently in a PhD program at Univesity of California, Irvine

Undergraduate Members

Alex Velasquez, BA

Arlene Cornejo, BA
Currently in Master's ABA program at Arizona State Univesity.
Diana Gonzalez, BA
Elemy Yeme, BA
Erika Luis Sanchez, BA
Currently in a Master's program at SDSU
Marcela Martinez, BA
Meylin Melchor, BA
Currently in Master's ABA program at Arizona State Univesity.

Maternal Behavior Neuroendocrinology Lab


Erin K. Lane - Supervisor

I received both my BA in Psychology and MA in Experimental Psychology from Cal State San Marcos.  Even as a student, my research has focused on animal behavior, including snake recognition in Geoffroy’s marmosets, and sexual selection in bearded dragon lizards.  As the supervisor of the D’Anna-Hernandez mouse lab, I help conduct and supervise research in stress and depression and its effects on maternal behavior in mice.  I continue to be interested in questions regarding the evolution of traits and behavior, animal communication, as well as learning and cognition.

 Arthur Jay Castaneda  

Arthur Jay Castaneda, BA

Graduate Student, Experimental Psychological Science, 2017

I completed my BA in Psychology here at CSUSM in 2013. Since then I have had the opportunity to work industry as a researcher, and greatly value that experience which has pushed me to pursue my MA in Experimental Psychological Science. I will continue to pursue a Ph.D in the fall of 2017 

Marica Chavez

Marcia Chavez, BA

Graduate Student, Experimental Psychological Science, 2017

I began my undergraduate career at Bakersfield College and completed my BA in psychology at California State University in Bakersfield (CSUB). While there, I became interested in research and began working as a research assistant under Dr. Isabel Sumaya in her behavioral neuroscience lab which focused on the effects of diet and environment on memory performance in rats. After graduating from CSUB in 2014, I applied to the Masters Program in Experimental Psychology at CSUSM and now work with Dr. Kimberly D'Anna-Hernandez in her maternal behavior and behavioral neuroendocrinology lab. My thesis project focuses on the potential for communal nesting to rescue the effects of prenatal infection in male and female offspring. My future goal is to look at how different risk and protective factors for mental health affect prenatal brain development and behavior.

Past Members

Graduate Members

Mike McCreary, MA

Alex Kowalczyk, MA

Currently in a PhD program at UC Davis

Undergraduate Members

Alicia Perry, BA

Graduated with a Master's at University of Southern California

Bobby Mercado, BA

Carlos Gonzalez, BA

Currently in a Neuroscience PhD program at Stanford University 

Erin Snider, BA

Gabe Holguin, BA

Psychological Science Master's at CSUSM

Heather Cody, BA

Lura Jacques, BA

Currently in a Organizational Psychology Master's program at CSU Long Beach 

Natalie Grenier, BA

Yesenia Cabrera, BA

Neuroscience PhD program at UCLA

Zak Pronenko, BA