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Moriel Zelikowsky

Moriel Zelikowsky, PhD

Languages spoken: English, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish

Academic Information

Departments Primary - Neurobiology

Research Interests

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Neuropeptides
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Isolation
  • Stress
  • Systems Neuroscience

Research Statement

Neural circuits underlying psychogenic stress.

Under normal circumstances, stress and fear enable us to flexibly adapt to conditions in our environment, greatly contributing to our success and survival. However, in cases of prolonged or extreme psychogenic stress, this normally advantageous system can exert detrimental effects on the brain and behavior, giving rise to disturbances in mental health such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, phobias, and social isolation. These disturbances can be extremely debilitating, targeting people regardless of age, sex, or ethnicity, and leading to increases in fear and violence in our society.

My lab is interested in understanding the brain circuits and neural mechanisms underlying various forms of stress. We apply cutting-edge, genetically-targeted molecular tools and techniques to identify, manipulate, and image from specific populations of neurons across a number of brain regions. We combine these techniques with in depth behavioral testing and computational analyses to dissect neural circuits and elucidate the role and function of particular cell populations within them.

Taking this molecular-behavioral approach, we ask questions such as how does the brain encode a single traumatic event? What does the brain look like after an extended period of social isolation? Can we target particular brain regions, cell populations, or signaling molecules to reverse the damaging effects of stress on behavior? In striving to answer these questions, we aim to better understand the brain and behavior, as well as potentially identify novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of mental health disorders.

Education History

Doctoral Training University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Los Angeles

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Grammer J, Zelikowsky M (2022). Neuroscience: The sting of social isolation. Curr Biol, 32(12), R572-R574. (Read full article)
  2. Torres ERS, Stanojlovic M, Zelikowsky M, Bonsberger J, Hean S, Mulligan C, Baldauf L, Fleming S, Masliah E, Chesselet MF, Fanselow MS, Richter F (2021). Alpha-synuclein pathology, microgliosis, and parvalbumin neuron loss in the amygdala associated with enhanced fear in the Thy1-aSyn model of Parkinson's disease. Neurobiology of Disease.
  3. Zelikowsky M, Ding K, Anderson DJ (2019). Neuropeptidergic control of an internal brain state produced by prolonged social isolation stress. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol.
  4. Zelikowsky M, Hui M, Karigo T, Choe A, Yang B, Blanco MR, Beadle K, Gradinaru V, Deverman BE, Anderson DJ (2018). The Neuropeptide Tac2 Controls a Distributed Brain State Induced by Chronic Social Isolation Stress. Cell, 173(5), 1265-1279.e19. (Read full article)
  5. Remedios R, Kennedy A, Zelikowsky M, Grewe BF, Schnitzer MJ, Anderson DJ (2017). Social behaviour shapes hypothalamic neural ensemble representations of conspecific sex. Nature, 550(7676), 388-392. (Read full article)
  6. Hong W, Kennedy A, Burgos-Artizzu XP, Zelikowsky M, Navonne SG, Perona P, Anderson DJ (2015). Automated measurement of mouse social behaviors using depth sensing, video tracking, and machine learning. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 112(38), E5351-60. (Read full article)
  7. Kunwar PS, Zelikowsky M, Remedios R, Cai H, Yilmaz M, Meister M, Anderson DJ (2015). Ventromedial hypothalamic neurons control a defensive emotion state. Elife, 4. (Read full article)
  8. Zelikowsky M, Hersman S, Chawla MK, Barnes CA, Fanselow MS (2014). Neuronal ensembles in amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex track differential components of contextual fear. J Neurosci, 34(25), 8462-6. (Read full article)
  9. Fanselow MS, Zelikowsky M, Perusini J, Barrera VR, Hersman S (2014). Isomorphisms between psychological processes and neural mechanisms: from stimulus elements to genetic markers of activity. Neurobiol Learn Mem, 108, 5-13. (Read full article)
  10. Zelikowsky M, Bissiere S, Hast TA, Bennett RZ, Abdipranoto A, Vissel B, Fanselow MS (2013). Prefrontal microcircuit underlies contextual learning after hippocampal loss. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 110(24), 9938-43. (Read full article)
  11. Zelikowsky M, Hast TA, Bennett RZ, Merjanian M, Nocera NA, Ponnusamy R, Fanselow MS (2013). Cholinergic blockade frees fear extinction from its contextual dependency. Biol Psychiatry, 73(4), 345-52. (Read full article)
  12. Zelikowsky M, Pham DL, Fanselow MS (2012). Temporal factors control hippocampal contributions to fear renewal after extinction. Hippocampus, 22(5), 1096-106. (Read full article)
  13. Zelikowsky M, Bissiere S, Fanselow MS (2012). Contextual fear memories formed in the absence of the dorsal hippocampus decay across time. J Neurosci, 32(10), 3393-7. (Read full article)
  14. Krasne FB, Fanselow MS, Zelikowsky M (2011). Design of a neurally plausible model of fear learning. Front Behav Neurosci, 5, 41. (Read full article)
  15. Bissiere S, Zelikowsky M, Ponnusamy R, Jacobs NS, Blair HT, Fanselow MS (2011). Electrical synapses control hippocampal contributions to fear learning and memory. Science, 331(6013), 87-91. (Read full article)
  16. Zelikowsky M, Fanselow MS (2010). Opioid regulation of Pavlovian overshadowing in fear conditioning. Behav Neurosci, 124(4), 510-9. (Read full article)


  1. Lai TT, Gericke B, Feja M, Conoscenti M, Zelikowsky M, Richter F (2023). Anxiety in synucleinopathies: neuronal circuitry, underlying pathomechanisms and current therapeutic strategies. [Review]. NPJ Parkinsons Dis, 9(1), 97. (Read full article)
  2. Padilla-Coreano N, Tye KM, Zelikowsky M (2022). Dynamic influences on the neural encoding of social valence. [Review]. Nat Rev Neurosci, 23(9), 535-550. (Read full article)
  3. Flavell SW, Gogolla N, Lovett-Barron M, Zelikowsky M (2022). The emergence and influence of internal states. [Review]. Neuron, 110(16), 2545-2570. (Read full article)
  4. Marvar PJ, Andero R, Hurlemann R, Lago TR, Zelikowsky M, Dabrowska J (2021). Limbic Neuropeptidergic Modulators of Emotion and Their Therapeutic Potential for Anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. [Review]. J Neurosci, 41(5), 901-910. (Read full article)
  5. Love J, Zelikowsky M (2020). Stress Varies Along the Social Density Continuum. [Review]. Front Syst Neurosci, 14, 582985. (Read full article)
  6. Craske MG, Kircanski K, Zelikowsky M, Mystkowski J, Chowdhury N, Baker A (2008). Optimizing inhibitory learning during exposure therapy. [Review]. Behav Res Ther, 46(1), 5-27. (Read full article)

Book Chapter

  1. Zelikowsky M, Fanselow MS (2011). Conditional analgesia, negative feedback and error correction. In Schachtman TR, Reilly SS (Eds.), Associative Learning and Conditioning: Human and Animal Applications. Oxford Scholarship Online.