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Kimberly D'Anna-Hernandez

Kimberly D'Anna-Hernandez

Associate Professor of Psychology

Office: SBSB 3229
Hours: M 3:00-3:50PM, W 9:00-10:00AM

Kimberly D'Anna-Hernandez

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. I maintain both a mouse and human lab.

Maternal Behavior Neuroendocrinology Mouse Lab

mouse lab 2019

Cultural Perinatal Mental Health Laboratory






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

Advisor: Dr. Stephen Gammie, PhD

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


Developmental Psychobiology Research Group Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Colorado Denver
National Science Foundation Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Diversity Program in Neuroscience Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, American Psychological Association
Business Forum Scholarship, Dane County Women's Business Forum
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.

I maintain both a mouse and human maternal behavior lab. The Human Lab has two current projects as listd below. 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: Mouse Lab Application

The mouse lab includes 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. A model of postpartum depression was created to look at maternal behavior in mice. The lab breeds mice and test are conducted on the them such as tail suspension which measures depression and the t-maze which measures their maternal motivation. The mice's behavior is then scored by pup retrieval, time spent with her pups,  and time they spend grooming their pups etc. Implementing these stressors to the mice allows students to look at the behavioral changes in the mice when they undergo different stressors. Students in this lab will be responsible for working with and testing on live animals and will gain further knowledge on maternal behavior in mice.


Human Lab: Human Lab Application

Project One: Mexican- American women report higher levels of depression during pregnancy when compared to their US counterparts. This research will examine the association with cultural factors and increased risk for mental health problems during pregnancy. Their children will be followed through preschool and examined as well. Students in this lab will be involved in all levels of the project such as recruitment and retention of participants, saliva and hair collection, child temperament and symptom assessment, sample management and performance of cortisol assays. Thus, providing students with critical translational research experience for students

Project Two: This project includes, pilot interventions to decrease gestational weight gain in obese pregnant women. Obese women who are at risk  for increase gestational weight gain are also at risk  for other health conditions like hypertension,    preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes, which all  are a risk factors for adverse infant outcomes.  This research lab focuses on health research  teams to pilot a group prenatal visit interventions  to decrease gestational weight and optimize  offspring health. This research project with provide, students with critical translational research experience for students.          





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)

Lara-Cinisomo, S,D’Anna-Hernandez, K.L., Fujimoto, E, Pedersen, C. (2018). Exploring associations between perinatal depression, anxiety, and urinary oxytocin levels in Latinas. Archives of Women’s Mental Health: in press.


Maldonado, A.*, &D’Anna-Hernandez, K.L. (2018). Acculturative stress, mental health symptoms, and the role of salivary inflammatory markers among a Latino sample. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 24(2): 277-283.


Hoffman, M.C., D’Anna-Hernandez, K.L., Benitez, P.*, & Laudenslager, M.L. (2017) Cortisol during human fetal life: Characterization of a method for processing small quantities of newborn hair from 26 to 42 weeks gestation. Developmental Psychobiology, 59(1): 123-127.


Preciado, A.* & D’Anna-Hernandez, K.L. (2017) Acculturative stress and trajectory of anxiety symptoms during pregnancy in Mexican-American women. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 40: 2835.


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.

Human Lab

Cultural Perinatal Mental Health Laboratory Members


Elizabeth Ochoa Sierra, B.A. Psychological Science

Graduate Student, Psychology, Spring 2021

My name is Elizabeth Ochoa Sierra and I am in my second year of graduate school at Cal State San Marcos. I contribute to our laboratory in the Lab-TAB portion of the study. As part of the Lab-TAB team, I conduct structured diagnostic interviews with moms about their children's moods and behaviors. I also lead activities aimed at measuring children's temperament. My research interests include looking at cross-cultural differences in temperament among White children and children of Mexican descent. With my experience, I plan to pursue a Ph.D in clinical psychology.


Edith Jimenez, B.A. Child & Adolescent Development with a minor in Psychology

My name is Edith Jimenez. I graduated from CSUSM in May 2018. I contribute to our laboratory in the LabTAB portion of the study as well as in coducting clinical diagnostic interviews. This being for the purpose of gaining more knowledge on Mexican American children's risk for psychopathology.


Yoselin Sanchez, B.A. Psychological Science

My name is Yoselin Sanchez. I graduated CSUSM in the Fall of 2018, I contribute to our labratory in the clinic portion of the study, I have recruited participants and conducted their visits during pregnancy and soon after the birth of their babies. I plan to pursue a career in Medicine where I can only hope to serve underrepresented and minority poplulations.


Krystal Alvarez-Hernandez, AAT Psychology, AAT Sociology

Psychological Science, Spring 2021

My name is Krystal Alvarez-Hernandez. I am in my 5th year at Cal State San Marcos, I contribute to our laboratory in the Infant P50 portion and Still-Face (infant behavior) procedure. With my experience, I plan to continue working with mothers throughout my academic development and hope to pursue a PhD in Psychological Science, become a university research professor and conduct research on the plasticity changes of the brain.


Karen Montiel, B.A. Psychological Science

Senior, Psychological Science, Spring 2020

My name is Karen Montiel and I am an undergraduate at Cal State San Marcos. I contribute to our laboratory in the LabTAB portion where I help assess maternal mental health outcomes and temperament development in preschool aged children. With my experience, I hope to pursue a PhD in Counseling Psychology.


Nataly Luna, B.A. Psychological Science

Senior, Psychological Science, Spring 2020

My name is Nataly Luna and I am currently pursuing a degree in Psychological Science with a minor in French. I plan on going to graduate school after and pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

Jessica O.

Jessica Orea

Sophomore, Psychological Science, Spring 2022

My name is Jessica Orea and I am a sophomore at Cal State San Marcos. My current research interests include looking at how social, cultural, and experiential factors affect psychological well-being. In the future I plan to go onto graduate school to obtain a PhD and ultimately work in either a government or academic setting.


Jayline Martinez

Junior, Psychological Science, Minor in Cognitive Science, Fall 2021

My name is Jayline Martinez and I am currently in my junior year at Cal State San Marcos. I contribute to our laboratory by conducting the 6 month follow up phone calls where I ask the mothers questions about their child's development and I administer questionnaires at the Vista Community Clinic. With my experience, I plan to attend graduate school and hope to pursue a Phd in Clinical Psychology.


Melissa Ramirez 

Senior, Psychological Science, Fall 2020

My name is Melissa Ramirez. I am in my 4th year at Cal State San Marcos, I contribute to our laboratory in the Stil-Face (infant behavior) procedure. With my experience, I plan to attend graduate school and hope to pursue a Masters in Social Work or Therapist for kids. I want to make a change in children's lives.


Gabriela Gutierrez

Psychological Science, Spring 2021

My name is Gabriela Gutierrez. I am in my 5th year at Cal State San Marcos, I contribute to the clinic portion of our laboratory. I recruit participants as well as conduct pregnancy and birth visits. With my experience, I plan to attend graduate school and to pursue a Master’s in Industrial Organizational Psychology




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
    • Esmeralda Garcia, MA: Currently in a PhD program at University of California, Irvine
    • Eva Urbina: Counseling Psych PhD Program at Colorado State University
    • Andrea Preciado, MA: Project Manager at UCSD
    • Jennifer Lobos: Currently attending Arizona State University in a counseling Psych PhD program. 
    • Raquel Good, MA: Research Coordinator at Rady’s Children Hospital
    • Jessica Rico, MA: Psychological Science at California State University San Marcos 

  • Undergraduate Members

    • Alex Velasquez, BA
    • Amiel Maldonado, BA: Currently in a Public Health program at UC Berkeley
    • Ariene Cornejo, BA: Currently in a Master's ABA program at Arizona State University
    • Diana Gonzalez, BA
    • Elemy Yeme, BA
    • Erika Luis Sanchez, BA: Currently is in Clinical Psych program at UCSB
    • Guadalupe Chim, BA
    • Marrcela Martinez, BA
    • Meylin Melchor, BA: Graduated with her masters from Arizona State University
    • Paola Ilescas, BA
    • Brianna Espinada, BA
    • Junue Hernandez, BA: Master of Social Work program at SDSU
    • Selina Gonzalez, BA: Currently a certified nursing assistant, and pursuing nursing school
    • Kayla Osman, BA: PhD program at University of Arizona
    • Mayra Leal, BA: Master of Social Work program at SDSU
    • Priscilla Perez, BA: Currently applying to graduate school programs
    • Christina Perez, BA: Master of Public Health program at UNC Chapel Hill
    • Delia Sanchez, BA: Master of public Health program at CSU Fullerton
    • Gladys Gonzalez-Matias, BA: Postbac at the National Institutes of Health 
    • Jennifer Figueroa, BA: Master of Psychological Science at CSU San Marcos

Mouse Lab


Gradute Students


Grace Hyun Lee, B.A.

I received my BA in psychology at the University of California, San Diego and I am currently finishing up my MA in psychological science at CSUSM researching the relative roles of maternal and pup peer contact in communal nesting (a type of social enrichment) and its relationship with offspring neurogenesis. I plan to continue conducting research and will apply to PhD programs Fall 2020.


Undergraduate Research Assistants

Jessah Goldner
I am a current Psychology Major here at CSUSM working towards completing my undergraduate studies. I greatly enjoy studying the brain and the neural mechanisms that underlie particular behaviors, namely neurobehavioral disorders. I plan on continuing my studies in neuroscience and working towards pursuing a Ph.D.
Ramiro Ramirez
I am a first generation Mexican-American student from an Oaxacan background. I am deeply humbled to be a member of this lab. I began my academic journey by transferring from Palomar Community College with an A.A. Degree in Psychology. Currently, I am finishing up my B.A. degree in Psychology while gaining experience in Dr. D’Anna-Hernandez’s neuroendocrinology lab. I would like to continue my career trajectory at CSUSM by acquiring my Master’s in Psychology. I would love to not only further my exposure and knowledge regarding neuroscience research, but also work with my community here in North County San Diego.


Jordan Carroll

I transferred from Palomar with an AA in Psychology  and am currently working towards completing my BA degree in psychology at CSUSM. I intend on pursuing a PhD with the hopes of one day obtaining my own lab, but until then, I want to garner as much research experience as I can. I am extremely interested in behavioral neuroscience as well as neuropharmacology and would love to eventually conduct my own research in one of the fields.


Ivan Perez

I started in the lab following my acceptance to the APA Summer Research Program in 2019. Continuing as an undergraduate research assistant, I have studied the neurobiology of stress/ anxiety and the implications these may have on understanding the neural mechanisms of maternal behavior. My projects consist of understanding the differences in depressive- like symptoms in both single and communally housed dams using a sucrose preference test. My research interest included understanding the neural mechanism behind depressive- like disorders to properly treat impacted individuals. In the fall of 2020, I will be applying to Ph.D. programs in Neuroscience. I would like to become a professor and extend my knowledge to  generations to come.




Past Members

  • Graduate Members

    • Marcia Chavez, MA: Currently in a Behavioral Neuroscience PhD program at University of Tennessee at Knoxville
    • Arthur Jay Castaneda, MA: Currently in a Behavioral Neuroscience PhD program at University of Tennessee at Knoxville
    • Mike McCreary, MA
    • Alex Kowalczyk, MA: Graduated from a PhD program at UC Davis
    • Alexandra Selke, B.A.: Neuroscience PhD program at Georgia State University
  • Undergraduate Members

    • Jhair Torres, B.A.: Currently in a post-bac program at Brown
    • Conner Whitten, B.A.: Currently in a Behavioral Neuroscience PhD program at University of Tennessee at Knoxville
    • Taryn Meinhardt, B.A.: Currently in a Behavioral Neuroscience PhD Program at Michigan State University
    • Faye Reymond, B.A.: Currently persuing a Masters in Neuroscience at Brandeis University
    • Kyra Presnell, B.A.: Currently working in industry
    • Imelda Lopez, B.S.: Currently Persuing a Masters degree in Biology at CSULA
    • Meghan Hamlin, BA
    • Justin Sanchez
    • Alicia Perry, BA: Graduated with a Master's at University of Southern California
    • Bobby Mercado, BA: School Psychology Specialist Masters Program at CSUS
    • Carlos Gonzales, 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: School Psychology Educational Specialist Program at SDSU
    • Lura Jacques, BA: Currently in an Organizational Psychology Master's program at CSU Long Beach
    • Natalie Grenier, BA
    • Yesenia Cabrera, BA: Neuroscience PhD program at UCLA
    • Zak Pronenko, BA
    • Haley Norris, BA: Experiment Psychology Master's Program at St. Joseph University
    • Karen Diaz, BA: Master’s program in Neuropsychology at University of Kent
    • Amir Alayoubi, B.A.: Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Neuroscience PhD program at Colorado State University
    • Jace Kuske, B.A.: Biological Psychology PhD program at University of California Davis.