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Tracy L. Bale, PhD

Academic Title:

Adjunct Professor

Primary Appointment:


Additional Title:

Director, Center for Epigenetic Research in Child Health and Brain Development


Health Sciences Research Facility (HSRF) III, Room 9-171

Education and Training

  • 1987-1992 B.S. Biology/Molecular Biology & Genetics, Washington State University
  • 1993-1997 Ph.D. Neurobiology, University of Washington, Department of Pharmacology
  • 1998-2003 Postdoctoral Fellow, Neuroendocrinology, The Salk Institute


Dr. Tracy Bale is a Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Director of the Center for Epigenetic Research in Child Health and Brain Development (CERCH). She obtained her Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the University of Washington, and completed her postdoctoral training with Dr. Wylie Vale and the Salk Institute. Prior to joining UM SOM, Dr. Bale was a Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also co-directed the Penn Center for the Study of Sex and Gender in Behavioral Health and was the Director of Research for the BIRCWH Faculty Scholars.

A nationally-recognized neuroscientist, Dr. Bale is respected for her research on stress as a risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders and neuropsychiatric disease. She has been the recipient of several awards including the career development award for early career achievement and promise by the Society for Neuroscience, the Richard E. Weitzman Memorial award as exceptionally promising investigator award by the Endocrine Society, the Medtronic Award from the Society for Women’s Health Research for outstanding research that has led to the improvement of women’s health, and most recently, the Daniel H. Efron Research Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Dr. Bale's lab has developed mouse models to study vulnerability to stress dysregulation, assessing sex-specificity, developmental timing, and epigenetic mechanisms involved in programming of the brain, placenta, and sperm in response to stress. Her research has provided novel insight into the increased neurodevelopmental risk to males following prenatal insults, such as maternal stress, and the role of placental sex (XX vs. XY) in buffering effects of gestational insult. Her lab identified OGT expression in the placenta as critical in providing protection to female offspring. Her lab is also making important discoveries linking paternal stress experience to offspring dysregulation through novel epigenetic markers in the sperm. Recently, Dr. Bale has focused on bridging basic and clinical research, translating her work on epigenetic markers in the sperm, and collaborating with Dr. Neill Epperson to mechanistically examine the impact of early life adversity on neuropsychiatric disease in women. 

Research/Clinical Keywords

prenatal stress, epigenetics, neurodevelopmental disorders, affective disorders, sex differences, CRF, neuroendocrinology, OGT, brain maturation, sperm microRNA, placenta, exosomes, autism

Highlighted Publications

Chan JC, Morgan CP, Adrian Leu N, Shetty A, Cisse YM, Nugent BM, Morrison KE, Jašarević E, Huang W, Kanyuch N, Rodgers AB, Bhanu NV, Berger DS, Garcia BA, Ament S, Kane M, Neill Epperson C, Bale TL (2020) Reproductive tract extracellular vesicles are sufficient to transmit intergenerational stress and program neurodevelopment. Nature Communications. 11:1499. PMID: 32198406

Morrison KE, Cole AB, Kane PJ, Meadows VE, Thompson SM, Bale TL (2020) Pubertal adversity alters chromatin dynamics and stress circuitry in the pregnant brain. Neuropsychopharmacology. PMID:32045935

Jasarevic E, Bale TL (2019) Prenatal and postnatal contributions of the maternal microbiome on offspring programming. Frontiers Neuroendocrinology. PMID:31574280

Morgan CP, Chan JC, Bale TL. (2019) Driving the Next Generation: Paternal Lifetime Experiences Transmitted via Extracellular Vesicles and Their Small RNA Cargo. Biological Psychiatry. 85(2):164-171. PMID: 30580777

Bale TL. (2019) Sex matters. Neuropsychopharmacology. 44(1):1-3. PMID: 30361539

Jašarević E, Howard CD, Morrison K, Misic A, Weinkopff T, Scott P, Hunter C, Beiting D, Bale TL. (2018) The maternal vaginal microbiome partially mediates the effects of prenatal stress on offspring gut and hypothalamus. Nature Neuroscience. 21(8):1061-1071. PMID: 29988069

Nugent BM, O'Donnell CM, Epperson CN, Bale TL. (2018) Placental H3K27me3 establishes female resilience to prenatal insults. Nature Communications. 9(1):2555. PMID: 29967448

Morrison KE, Epperson CN, Sammel MD, Ewing G, Podcasy JS, Hantsoo L, Kim DR, Bale TL. (2017) Preadolescent Adversity Programs a Disrupted Maternal Stress Reactivity in Humans and Mice. Biological Psychiatry. 81(8):693-701. PMID: 27776734

Bale TL. (2015) Epigenetic and transgenerational reprogramming of brain development. Nature Reveiws Neuroscience. 16(6):332-44. PMID: 25921815

Bale TL, Epperson CN. (2015) Sex differences and stress across the lifespan. Nature Neuroscience18(10):1413-20. PMID: 26404716. 

Rodgers AB, Morgan CP, Leu NA, and Bale TL (2015) Transgenerational epigenetic programming via sperm microRNA recapitulates effects of paternal stress. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 112:13699-704 

Nugent BM, Bale TL. (2015) The omniscient placenta: Metabolic and epigenetic regulation of fetal programming. Frontiers Neuroendocrinology. 39:28-37. PMID:26368654

Howerton CL, Morgan CP, Fischer DB, and Bale TL (2013) O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) as a placental biomarker of maternal stress and reprogramming of CNS gene transcription in development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 110:5169-74 

Search PubMed for articles

Research Interests

Developing mouse models of stress sensitivity using genetic and prenatal manipulations to understand the mechanism and heritability for increased susceptibility to neurodevelopmental disorders. Examine the effects of maternal and paternal stress on fetal development and long-term physiological and behavioral responses. 

Awards and Affiliations

  • 1992 Science and Engineering Research Fellow Award, Department of Energy
  • 1997 Young Investigator Symposium Speaker, National Science Foundation
  • 1998 Research Fellowship Award, National Research Service Award (NRSA)
  • 2001 Fellowship Award, American Neuroendocrine Society
  • 2001 Research Fellowship Award, Adler Foundation Grant
  • 2003 Bristol-Myers Squibb Award
  • 2003 Frank Beach Outstanding Investigator Award
  • 2003 McCabe Fellow Award
  • 2008 Ziskind-Somerfeld Research Award
  • 2011 Richard E. Weitzman Memorial Award
  • 2012 Medtronic Society for Women’s Health Research Prize
  • 2016 MERIT Award, NIMH R37MH108286
  • 2016 Daniel H. Efron Research Award, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
  • 2019 NIH Award and Key Lecture, International Federation of Placenta Associations
  • 2019 Allan and Maria Meyers International Visiting Fellow at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health
  • 2019 Joseph Erlanger Award and Distinguished Lecture, American Physiological Society
  • 2020 President, International Brain Research Organization (IBRO)

Links of Interest