Genes, Development And Behavior
Department of Translational Neuroscience
Utrecht, The Netherlands

Marian Joëls

Position: Professor of Neuroscience
Phone: (+31) (0)88 75 68179 (only on Friday)
Phone secretariat: (+31) (0)88 75 68847

Henk Karst

Position: Senior Researcher in Neuroscience
Phone: (+31) (0)88 75 68821
Phone secretariat: (+31) (0)88 75 68847



The focus of this group is on stress hormone actions in the brain. We aim i) to delineate the cellular and network effects of stress hormones in limbic brain regions, ii) to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms and iii) to examine the functional consequences for behavior, in health and disease. By linking investigations at multiple levels of complexity we try to come to a full comprehension, from the molecular to the network and behavioral level.

Experimental strategy and key results:

Stress hormones on the short term are necessary to adapt to challenges and restore homeostasis. Behavioral changes form part of a functional stress response. In collaboration with other groups we study the effect of stress exposure on (emotional) memory formation and executive functions in humans. To understand the underlying mechanisms we use animal models, to determine how exposure to stress hormones, in particular corticosteroids, changes the function and shape of cells / networks in the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex. We are particularly interested to see how early life environment and unpredictable stressors in adulthood affect limbic responses to stress hormones and how this may precipitate stress-related disorders.



1. S. Vogel, G. Fernández, M. Joëls, L. Schwabe. Cognitive Adaptation under Stress: A Case for the Mineralocorticoid Receptor. Trends Cogn Sci. 20, 192-203, 2016.

2. J.S. Van Campen, F.E. Jansen, M.A. Pet, W.M. Otte, M.H. Hillegers, M. Joëls M*, K.P. Braun. Relation between stress-precipitated seizures and the stress response in childhood epilepsy. Brain, 138(Pt 8):2234-48, 2015.

3. R.A. Sarabdjitsingh, J. Jezequel, N. Pasricha, L. Mikasova, A. Kerkhofs, H. Karst, L. Groc* and M. Joëls*, Ultradian corticosterone pulses balance glutamatergic transmission and synaptic plasticity, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 111, 14265-14270, 2014.

4. M.J.A.G. Henckens, G.A. van Wingen, M. Joëls, G. Fernández, Time-dependent corticosteroid modulation of prefrontal working memory processing, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 108, 5801-5806, 2011.

5. H. Karst, S. Berger, G. Erdmann, G. Schütz and M. Joëls, Metaplasticity of amygdalar responses to the stress hormone corticosterone, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 107, 14449-14454, 2010.

* joined senior authorship