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Nina C. Donner, Ph.D.


Staff Scientist

Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry

Department of Stress Neurobiology and Neurogenetics

(Director: Alon Chen, Ph.D.)


Kraepelinstr. 2 - 10

80804 Munich, Germany


Office: Kra, 404

Phone: ++49 (0)89 30622-554




CV / Resume

Link to Nina's Linked-In profile and network


Translation Services






  Research Interests & Goals

  • Stress-related psychiatric disorders, resilience and intervention

  • Effects of acute and chronic stress on brain function and behavior

  • Mechanisms underlying stress-induced activation of brain serotonergic systems

  • Actions of glucocorticoids on serotonergic gene/protein expression & on enzymatic activity of Tph2

  • Promoting neuroscience education & funding

  • Making the use of both sexes in animal models the norm, not the exception

  • Focussing on individualized intervention, holistic approaches & positive neuroscience (revealing and reinforcing mechanisms of health jointly with combating mechanisms of disease)


 Research Projects

  • Characterizing rodent models of anxiety- and depressive symptoms, reflecting behavioral and endocrine impairments as well as biochemical and neurotransmitter-related pathologies observed in humans

  • Effects of acute and chronic, non-invasive glucocorticoid exposure on anxiety- and stress-coping networks within the brain, with focus on changes in serotonergic function

  • Collaborations: Novel, peripherally-acting antidepressants; stress-protective effects of commensal bacteria; effects of chronic nicotine exposure on serotonergic gene expression; identification of CRF-signalling pathways and mechanisms that modulate serotonergic function; sex differences and interaction of early life stressors (maternal separation, social isolation) on behavior and serotonergic gene expression later in life; effects of different types of psychological and physical stressors in adult life on serotonergic gene expression; characterization of neuronal networks related to generalized anxiety- versus panic-like behavior


 Ph.D. Integrative Physiology &
          Center for Neuroscience
2009 - 2012   University of Colorado, Boulder
 M.S. Biomedical Sciences        2006 - 2008  Colorado State University, Fort Collins
  Diplom-Biology (Dipl.-Biol./M.S.) 2000 - 2005    University of Regensburg, Germany   
(Behavioral & Molecular Neurobiology, Genetics, Microbiology)


 Research Experience

   2012 - 2014 Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Integrative Physiology & Center for Neuroscience, Laboratory of Christopher A. Lowry (Ph.D.), University of Colorado, Boulder
  2009 - 2012 Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Integrative Physiology & Center for Neuroscience, Laboratory of Christopher A. Lowry (Ph.D.), University of Colorado, Boulder
  2006 - 2008   Graduate Research Assistant, Biomedical Sciences Department, Laboratory of Robert J. Handa (Ph.D.), Colorado State University, Fort Collins
 2005 - 2006   Research Assistant, Department of Behavioral and Molecular Neuroendocrinology, Laboratory of Inga D. Neumann (Ph.D.), University of Regensburg
 2004    Undergraduate Research Assistant, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Laboratory of William B. Wood (Ph.D.), University of Colorado, Boulder
 2003     Undergraduate Research Assistant, Department of Integrative Physiology, Laboratory of Pei-San Tsai (Ph.D.), University of Colorado, Boulder


 Teaching Experience


 2009   Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Integrative Physiology, Cell Physiology (IPHY 3060), University of Colorado, Boulder
  2007    Lecturer & Graduate Teaching Assistant, Biomedical Sciences Department, Functional Neuroanatomy (BMS 345), Colorado State University, Fort Collins
  2005     Teaching Assistant, Department of Behavioral and Molecular Neuroendocrinology, Animal Physiology, University of Regensburg, Germany

 2005 - present 

Mentoring of undergraduate (10) & high school (1) students
 1998 - 2002  Tutoring of high school & undergraduate students in Math, Latin and German


 Other Professional Experience

 1998 - 2000             Freelance writer for German newspaper (ddeutsche Zeitung)

 2009 - present         Freelance Translation Services (English-German & Deutsch-Englisch)

  Translation Services

Methods & Skill Set


Adrenal Functionality Assay

Behavioral Testing

(acoustic startle, elevated plus-maze, forced swim, open-field, social interaction/preference, sucrose preference)

Behavioral Analysis (Ethovision, Observer)

Brain & Organ Microdissection

Cloning, Sub-Cloning, Ribo-Probe Design



Genetic Crossings, siRNA


Histology / Stainings

Image Analysis (ImageJ, OptiQuant)


In situ Hybridization Histochemistry

In vivo Enzymatic Activity

In vivo Microdialysis

Microbiology (including anaerobic and hyperthermophilic bacterial cultures)

Microscopy (light, flourescence, confocal)

Neuroanatomy (human, rat, mouse)


RIAs & Radioactive Quantifications Methods

Scientific Writing, Editing, Peer Review, Manuscript & Grant Proposal Preparation

Small Animal Surgery (including stereotaxic / intracranial implantations)

Statistical Data Analysis & Graphical  Representation (SPSS, SigmaPlot)

Western Blot

 Honors and Awards

  2014 International Congress of Neuroendocrinology (ICN) Travel Award
  2013 Society for Neuroscience Postdoctoral Chapters Travel Award
  2012  Invited Talk & Trainee Award at the Front Range Neuroscience Group (FRNG) Meeting
  2012  Society for Neuroscience Graduate Student Travel Award
  2012  International Behavioral Neuroscience Society Graduate Student Tavel Award
  2012  International Behavioural and Neural Genetic Society (IBANGS) Graduate Student Travel Award
  2012  First author on publication selected for Donal F. Klein Early Career Investigator Award (awardee: Chrsitopher A Lowry)
 2010, 2011 Departmental & Graduate School Travel Awards
 2010 Sigma Xi Grants in Aid of Research (GIAR) Grant
 2010 Front Range Neuroscience Group (FRNG) Student Poster Award
 2006 - 2007  

Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (German National Academic Foundation) Fellowship


Siemens VDO Excellence Award for Diplom/Master's Thesis at the University of Regensburg

 2004 - 2005  

Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes Fellowship based on academic excellence & leadership

 2003 - 2004   

Exchange Year Scholarship from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service)


Sponsored Internship at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany

 2001 Sponsored Participation in the London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF)
 2000   Jugend forscht (Young Researchers) National Award   PDF (German Physicians Magazine article)
 1993, 1997  Jugend forscht (Young Researchers) Regional Awards


 Peer-Reviewed Publications

Stamper CE, Hennessey PA, Hale MW, Lukkes JL, Donner NC, Lowe KR, Paul ED, Spencer RL, Renner KJ, Orchinik M, Lowry CA. Role of the dorsomedial hypothalamus in glucocorticoid-mediated fast feedback inhibition of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. [under review]

Donner NC, Siebler PH, Paul ED, Johnson DT, Villarreal MD, Matti AJ, Mani S, Lowry CA (2013). Serotonergic systems in the balance: Crhr1 and Crhr2 in the dorsal raphe nucleus differentially control stress-induced serotonin synthesis. [under review]

Handa RJ, Kudwa AE, Donner NC, McGivern RF, Brown R (2013). Central 5-alpha reduction of testosterone is required for testosterone's inhibition of the HPA axis response to restraint stress in adult male rats. (Brain Res, 1529, 74-82)

Donner NC, Lowry, CA (2013). Review: Sex differences in anxiety and emotional behavior. Eur J Physiology, 465, 601-626 PubMed Link

Lukkes JL, Kopelman JM, Donner NC, Hale MW, Lowry CA (2013). Development x environment interactions control tph2 mRNA expression. Neuroscience, 237, 139-150 PubMed Link

Donner NC, Johnson PL, Fitz SD, Kellen KE, Shekhar A, Lowry CA (2012) Elevated tph2 mRNA expression in a rat model of chronic anxiety. Depression and Anxiety, 29, 307-319 PubMed Link

Donner NC, Montoya CD, Lukkes JL, Lowry CA (2012). Chronic non-invasive corticosterone administration abolishes the diurnal pattern of tph2 expression. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37, 645-661 PubMed Link

Kelly KJ, Donner NC, Hale MW, Lowry CA (2011). Swim stress activates serotonergic and nonserotonergic neurons in specific subdivisions of the rat dorsal raphe nucleus in a temperature-dependent manner. Neuroscience, 197, 251-68 PubMed Link

Donner N, Handa RJ (2009). Estrogen receptor beta regulates the expression of tph2 mRNA within serotonergic neurons of the rat dorsal raphe nuclei. Neuroscience, 163, 705-18  PubMed Link

Donner N, Neumann ID (2009). Effects of chronic intracerebral prolactin on the oxytocinergic and vasopressinergic system of virgin ovariectomized rats. Neuroendocrinology, 90, 315-22 PubMed Link

Donner N, Maloumby R, Bredewold R, Neumann ID (2007). Chronic intracerebral prolactin attenuates neuronal  stress circuitries in virgin rats. Eur J Neuroscience, 25, 1804-1814  PubMed Link

Donner N (2000). Honey under the microscope - a mix of sugar crystals and pollen that kills germs [Original article in German]. Mikrokosmos, 89, 91-95  Sciencegarden Link

  Scientific Memberships

  European Brain and Behaviour Society (EBBS)
  Front Range Neuroscience Group (FRNG)
  International Behavioral Neuroscience Society (IBNS)
  International Behavioral and Neural Genetics Society (IBANGS)
  Sigma Xi - The Scientific Research Society
 Society for Neuroscience (SfN)

  The Endocrine Society (ENDO)


Personal Information

  • Birthplace: Munich, Germany

  • Sport: all the outdoor fun (marathon running, road/mountain biking, swimming, hiking, climbing, skiing)

  • Hobbies: travelling, foreign cultures, reading, musical instruments (hammer dulcimer/saxophone), motorcycle riding, observing animals outside the cage