Dr. Cunningham is a Professor in the Department of Neurosciences at UNM-HSC.  She received her PhD in Anatomical Sciences from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana followed by postdoctoral training in Neurobiology from the University of Rochester School of Medicine before joining UNM as Assistant Professor in 1993.  Dr. Cunningham directs an active research program in preclinical models of neurologic disease, which has been continuously supported by federal and private foundation grants.  She has served the NIH Center for Scientific review with both charter and ad hoc study section membership for many years.  She is passionate and dedicated to biomedical research education at UNM as evidenced by her breadth of mentorship for undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty.  Dr. Cunningham is also currently co-director of the Preclinical Core Facility for the CoBRE Center for Brain Recovery and Repair.

Areas of Specialty

Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis
Neural Stem Cells in CNS Plasticity and Repair
Prenatal alcohol exposure


Post-Doc, Neurobiology & Anatomy:
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY

Phd, Anatomical Sciences:
University of Illinois
Champaign-Urbana' IL

University of Illinois
Champaign-Urbana' IL

Achievements & Awards

  • William G. Dail Award for Outstanding Teaching and Mentorship
  • Earl Walker Award for Outstanding Achievement in Neuroscience Research
  • Teaching Award for Phase I Neuroscience Medical School Curriculum
  • Regents Lectureship Award – University of New Mexico School of Medicine

Key Publications

  • Gustus K, Li L, Newville J, Cunningham LA (2020) Functional and structural correlates of impaired enrichment-mediated adult hippocampal neurogenesis in a mouse model of prenatal Alcohol Exposure, Brain Plasticity (special issue on Alcohol and Hippocampal Plasticity) in press.
  • Carrica L, Li L, Newville J, Kenton J, Gustus K, Brigman J, Cunningham LA (2018) Genetic inactivation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF-1a) in adult hippocampal progenitors impairs neurogenesis and pattern discrimination learning.  Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 157: 79. 10.1016/j.nlm.2018.12.002   
  • Newville J, Valenzuela CF, Li L, Jantzie LL, Cunningham LA (2017) Acute oligodendrocyte loss with persistent white matter injury in a third trimester equivalent mouse model of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Glia 65(8): 1317-1332. 10.1002/glia.23164
  • Kajimoto K, Valenzuela F, Allan A, Ge S, Gu Y, Cunningham LA (2016) Prenatal alcohol exposure alters synaptic activity of adult hippocampal dentate granule cells under conditions of enriched environment.  Hippocampus 26(8): 1078-87. 10.1002/hipo.22588
  • Li L, Candelario KM, Thomas K, Wang R, Wright K, Cunningham LA (2014) Hypoxia inducible factor-1alpha (HIF-1a) is required for neural stem cell maintenance and vascular stability in the adult subventricular zone (SVZ). J. Neuroscience 34 (50): 16713-16719. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4590-13.2014
  • Li L, Harms K, Ventura P, Lagace D, Eisch A, Cunningham LA (2010) Focal cerebral ischemia induces a multilineage cytogenic response from adult subventricular zone that is predominantly gliogenic.  Glia 58: 1610-1619. 10.1002/glia.21033


She, her


  • English


Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Prenatal Alcohol Exposure: The production of new neurons within the adult dentate gyrus of the hippocampus represents a novel form of hippocampal plasticity associated with certain forms of learning and memory.  Our laboratory has demonstrated that exposure to even moderate levels of prenatal alcohol throughout gestation leads to impaired neurogenesis in adulthood, particularly in response to enriched environment.  My laboratory applies genetic, behavioral and neuroanatomical approaches to elucidate the consequences and mechanisms underlying this impairment.

Endogenous neural stem cells and stroke:   Focal cerebral ischemia induces a robust multilineage regenerative response whereby endogenous neural stem cells generate neuroblasts, oligodendrocyte progenitor cells and astrocytes that persist within the ischemic striatal parenchyma.  My laboratory is interested in mechanisms that direct the mobilization, survival and phenotypic fate of endogenous stem cell populations following hypoxic injury and their role in endogenous functional repair.

Courses Taught

Undergraduate Medical Education:

  • Phase I Medical School Neurosciences
Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program:
  • Principles of Neurobiology
  • Functional Neuroanatomy