Jenna Ann McHenry
Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

The McHenry Lab is currently accepting applications for several positions in the lab, including graduate students and postdocs.  Please e-mail for inquiries.

My central research focus is to understand how social processing neurons are intertwined with or embedded in positive and negative valence systems. This interplay is likely important to link social contexts with emotional representations and promote social motivation. However, the precise neural circuitry that orchestrates these complex interactions remains unresolved and it is unclear whether social and nonsocial emotional information is processed through overlapping or distinct pathways. My lab uses a combination of approaches, including in vivo calcium imaging and optogenetics, to monitor and manipulate the activity of neurons with anatomical and molecular precision in a mouse model. A major goal of this work is to characterize the functional connections between the medial preoptic area (mPOA), an essential site for social behavior, and key centers that regulate positive and negative affect. We are interested in understanding how prosocial experience recruits these circuits to promote social interactions and buffer against stress and anxiety, and how stress perturbs these processes. A second line of research investigates whether social reward systems are separate from or overlapping with those that govern nonsocial natural reward. For example, we are imaging midbrain dopaminergic neurons with single-cell resolution and making comparisons between social versus nonsocial reward, in freely behaving animals. While the mesolimbic dopamine system has been well implicated in adaptive and maladaptive reward processing, it is unknown whether social motivation deficits are due to perturbations in specialized social pathways or due to more generalized reward disruptions. Identifying whether subnetworks of neurons within the reward system are specialized for socially-relevant emotional states could help discover the ways in which certain behavioral abnormalities arise. Collectively, these studies will provide insights into social and motivational processes that are disrupted across a range of conditions, including major depression, reproductive mood disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.


McHenry, J. A., Otis, J.M, Rossi, M.A., Robinson, E.J., Kyosk, O., Miller, N.W., McElligott, Z.A., Budygin E.A., Rubinow, D. R. and Stuber, G.D. (2017) Hormonal gain control of a medial preoptic area social reward circuit. Nature Neuroscience. Mar; 20(3):449-458. PMID: 28135243.

Otis, J.M., Namboodiri, V.K., Matan, A.M., Voets, E.S. Mohorn, E.P. McHenry, J.A. Robinson E.J., Resendez, S.L. Rossi, M.A., Stuber, G.D. (2017) Prefrontal cortex output circuits guide reward seeking through divergent cue encoding. Nature. Mar 2;543(7643):103-107. PMID: 28225752.

Robison C.L., McHenry, J.A., and Hull. (2017)  Increased expression of carbon monoxide  producing enzymes in the medial preoptic area after sexual experience in male rats. Physiology & Behavior. Mar 15;171:149-157. PMID: 28088559.

McHenry, J.A., Robison, C.L., Bell, G.A., Vialou, V.V., Bolaños-Guzmán, C.A., Nestler, E.J. and           Hull, E.M. (2016) The Role of ∆FosB in the medial preoptic area: differential effects of mating and cocaine history. Behavioral Neuroscience. Oct;130(5):469-78. PMID:27657309.                    

Decot H.K., Namboodiri, V.M., Gao, W., McHenry, J.A., Jennings J.H., Kao J.Y., Das M., Kantak P.K., Witten I.B., Deisseroth, K., Shih I, Stuber G.D. (2016) Coordination of brain wide activity dynamics by dopaminergic neurons. Neuropsychopharmacology. Sept;14. PMID: 27515791.

Resendez, S.L., Jennings, J.H, Ung, R.L, Namboodiri V.M., Zhou, C.Z., Otis, J.M., Nomura, H, McHenry, J.A. Garret D. Stuber (2016) Visualization of cortical, subcortical and deep brain neural circuit dynamics during naturalistic mammalian behavior with head-mounted microscopes and chronically implanted lenses. Nature Protocols. Mar;111(3):556-97. PMID:26914316.

Cone, J.C., Fortin, S.M., McHenry, J.A., Stuber, G.D., McCutcheon, Roitman, M.F. (2016) Physiological state gates acquisition and expression of mesolimbic reward prediction signals. Proc Natl Acad Sci. Feb;16113(7):1943-8. PMID: 26914316.

McHenry, J.A., Rubinow, D.R., & Stuber G.D. (2015) Maternally responsive neurons in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and medial preoptic area: putative circuits for regulating anxiety and reward. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology. Jul;38:65-72. PMID: 25910426.

McHenry, J.A., Carrier, N., Hull, E.M., & Kabbaj M. (2014) Sex differences in anxiety and depression: role of testosterone. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology. Jan; 35(1):42-57.PMC3946856. 

McHenry, J.A., (2013) Neurobiological mechanisms of mating-induced stress-buffering and anxiolysis.  Florida State University Dissertation.

McHenry, J.A. Bell, G.A., Parrish, B.P., & Hull, E.M. (2012) Dopamine D1 receptors and phosphorylation of dopamine- and cyclic AMP-regulated phosphoprotein-32 in the medial preoptic area are involved in experience-induced enhancement of male sexual behavior in rats. Behavioral Neuroscience. 126(4): 523-9. PMC3409344. 

Vigdorchik, A.V., Parrish, B.P., Lagoda, G.A., McHenry, J.A., & Hull, E.M. (2012) An NMDA antagonist in the MPOA impairs copulation and stimulus sensitization in male rats. Behavioral Neuroscience. 126(1): 186-95. PMC3270382.


Dissecting midbrain and preoptic circuits that regulate social and nonsocial emotional states, K99/R Pathway to Independence, awarded by the National Institute of Mental Health (Principal Investigator). 2017-2021.

Visualizing network dynamics in hormone-responsive reward circuits awarded by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2017-2019.

Single cell transcriptional profiling to identify novel neurocircuit targets for reproductive mood disorders awarded by the Foundation of Hope (Co-Investigator). 2016-2022.

Deconstructing maternal circuit elements that underlie anxiety and motivation awarded by the Foundation of Hope (Co-Investigator). 2014-2018.  

Reproductive Mood Disorders Fellowship awarded by the National Institute of Mental Health (Postdoctoral National Research Service Award, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). 2013-2016.

Sex-specific midbrain neural circuits that underlie divergent motivational states awarded by the National Institute of Drug Addiction (Research Investigator). 2014-2016.

Effects of social experience on behavioral and neuronal stress response in male and females awarded by the National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2013-.2014.


K99/R Pathway to Independence Award.  National Institute of Mental Health. 2017.

NARSAD Young Investigator. National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression. 2016.

Research Presentation Award. Gordon Optogenetics Research Conference. 2016

Young Investigator Award. Foundation of Hope. 2014.

National Research Service Award. National Institute of Mental Health. 2013.

Society for Neuroscience Chapters Travel Award. Society for Neuroscience. 2012

Ermine Oweny Jr. Travel Fund to Promote Excellence. Private Foundation. 2012.

Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, National Science Foundation. 2012.

Neuroscience Program Fellowship. Florida State University. 2011.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

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