Maya Opendak,PhD

Assistant Professor Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Johns Hopkins Department of Neuroscience

Specialization: Developmental neurobiology of circuits supporting social behavior



Disrupted social behavior is a core feature of compromised mental health, including anxiety and depression, and is a long-standing early diagnostic marker of disorders that emerge in later-life.

Yet, we have little understanding of the ontogeny of social behavior neural circuits or how environmental perturbation at different stages of development impacts infant behavior. Using the infant rodent pup, my lab studies the specific infant neuroanatomical circuits that generate developmentally-appropriate social behavior and how these systems go awry following adversity. My team’s work examines how ethologically-relevant social challenges, such as social hierarchy disruption and abusive caregiving during infancy, produce profound changes in brain structure and function to modify behavior. 


My lab takes a unique approach by integrating state-of-the-art neurobiology techniques into the study of complex behavioral development across the lifespan. This permits us to probe how specific circuits control social behavior in the developing infant and how adversity re-programs this circuitry to impair behavior. Although our focus is socially-guided behavior, we collaborate with many neuroscientists studying the neurobiology of disease to understand how and when to identify early biomarkers of pathology. 


To advance neuroscience discovery by uniting neuroscience, engineering and computational data science to understand the structure and function of the brain.