David M. Lovinger PhD, Chief

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism LIN logo shows neuron and mouse
National Institutes of Health
5625 Fishers Lane, Room TS-13A:MSC 9411
Bethesda, MD 20892-9412                                                          

telephone: 301.443.2445                                      
fax: +1 301.480.8035
e-mail: lovindav@mail.nih.gov

CV (pdf-file 488 kB); other web page: Lovinger at Neuroscience @ NIH



1) Research in SSP focuses on examination of the mechanisms involved in synaptic plasticity related to habit formation and addiction, with particular emphasis on the striatum. 2) Studies in this section also examine the function and roles of cortico-basal ganglia circuits in habit formation and addiction, using a combination of behavioral and in vivo physiological techniques. Genetically engineered mice are employed to help determine the roles of particular molecules and neurons in behavior and the underlying physiology. 3) Research in the section also explores effects of alcohol and other drugs of abuse on synaptic transmission. Different in vitro preparations, including single cells and brain slices are used to accomplish this aim. 4) In addition, we are interested in determining the molecular mechanisms underlying these drug actions, through the combined use of molecular biological and physiological techniques


Scientific images of cell components in flourescent colors

Images courtesy of Dr. Davis



Li Zhang, MD

Staff Scientist


Telephone: (301) 443-3755

Alcohol and its metabolites suppress human brain function and affect behavior, however, little is known about the neurological processes that mediate the action of EtOH metabolites in the brain. My group is implementing in vitro and in vivo  techniques to explore the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying alcohol metabolism and intoxication in the brain. We are also interested in the role of glycinergic transmission in cannabinoid and opioid-induced cellular and behavioral effects in the brain.


Yolanda Mateo, PhD

Yolanda Mateo, PhD

Staff Scientist


Telephone: (301) 443-3754

My research investigates how dopamine influences behavioral output by modulating basal ganglia circuit function. We use fast-scan cyclic voltammetry and optogenetics to elucidate the importance of local presynaptic control at striatal dopaminergic terminals and modulation of this dynamic system by endocannabinoids. We also use in vivo voltammetry to capture subsecond dopamine release.


Research Assistant Professor/Guest Researcher

NIAAA K99/R00 Recipient

George Mason Univeristy, Fairfax VA 


 My research studies the role of dopamine and acetylcholine cortico-basal ganglia circuits that shape motivated behaviors and contribute to alcohol use disorder. A second line of study examines the role striosome and matrix compartments of the striatum – neurochemically-distinct striatal subregions with enhanced expression of the mu opioid receptor – in basal ganglia function under normal and pathological conditions. To facilitate these studies, I employ several in vitro and in vivo techniques including electrophysiology, fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, fiber photometry, two-photon laser scanning microscopy and behavior in conjunction with several novel, genetically-encoded fluorescent biosensors.


Shana Augustin, PhD

Research Fellow 



I study the molecular basis of striatal synaptic plasticity and how regulation of synaptic efficacy can shape/influence action selection and learning using various techniques such as slice electrophysiology, pharmacology, behavior, fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, in vitro and in vivo photometry, and 2-photon fluorescence-lifetime imaging microscopy in combination with mouse genetics and genetically-encoded fluorescent biosensors. One of my studies focuses on contributions of intracellular signaling molecules in striatal circuitry and function using cyclic AMP and PKA optical biosensors. Another one of my studies focuses on the endocannabinoid-CB1 receptor transmission in mediating action control, normal and maladaptive.



Daniel Liput, PhD

Research Fellow 


My research is focused on understanding molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying synaptic modulation in the basal ganglia. Using genetically-encoded fluorescent biosensors, brain slice photometry and electrophysiology,  we are investigating neural activity rules and neurochemical pathways supporting endocannabinoid mobilization. We are interested in how neuromodulatory systems in the dorsal striatum interact to produce distinct endocannabinoid signals and how these signals influence different forms of synaptic plasticity.


Konrad Juczewski

Konrad Juczewski, PhD

IRTA Postdoctoral Fellow 


Exploring how our nervous system works means trying to understand the essence of a human being. At the center is our cognition, therefore I am fascinated how it is shaped by our senses, thoughts and experience. In particular I try to understand how sensory processing and plasticity mechanisms in our brain are changed under the influence of a substances of abuse or by neurodevelopmental disorders.


Jeong Oen Lee, PhD

IRTA Postdoctoral Fellow


I am interested in understanding neural circuits and brain functions in awake, behaving animals using genetically encoded biosensors and optical imaging techniques. I leverage my experiences in electrical engineering and optical systems in developing new tools and techniques for better visualization of the functional neuronal activities. My current project focuses on studying cell-specific neuronal functions and circuit dynamics in basal ganglia and motor cortex associated with motor learning, habit formation, and addictive behavior. 


Andrew Kesner, PhD

CCB Postdoctoral Fellow 


My overarching scientific interests are in the neural mechanisms of motivated behavior and the maladaptations of these mechanisms that give rise to psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, and addiction. An often overlooked component of these psychiatric illnesses is poor sleep quality or disrupted sleep, and in the Lovinger Lab I use both classical (ex-vivo slice electrophysiology, in-vivo single-unit and ECoG/EMG recording) and cutting-edge (optogenetics, chemogenetics, in-vivo photometric imaging) to study the neural and behavioral manifestations of sleep disruption occurring when mice experience withdrawal from THC, the major psychedelic component of cannabis.


Sebastiano Bariselli, PhD

Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow

Swiss National Science Foundation, Switzerland


Fetal alcohol exposure has devastating neurobehavioral consequences that protract into adulthood. In the lab, combining optogenetic, ex vivo and in vivo neuronal activity recordings, I investigate how ethanol exposure during early periods of development affects the maturation of cortico-striatal pathways to produce cognitive dysfunctions. Understanding the relative contribution of synaptic and circuit plasticity at specific brain circuits for executive function might expand the paucity of therapeutic interventions currently available for patients affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).



Jacob Nadel, BA

Postbac IRTA Fellow


I am generally interested in the role of the striatum in habit, compulsivity, and addiction, along with the role of nigrostriatal dopamine in these disorders, and the physiological and functional differences between the neurochemically-distinct striosome and matrix subcompartments of the striatum. To investigate questions related to these interests, I utilize slice photometry and voltammetry, along with in vivo photometry, optogenetics, and chemogenetics. I am also investigating the impact of a ketone-ester based diet on the progression of Parkinsonian symptoms.


Alexa Gracias, BA

Postbac IRTA Fellow


My interests are in the neural mechanisms of habit formation and how they contribute to psychiatric disease such as addiction. Currently, my main projects focus on understanding the role of the endocannabinoid system (eCBs), and how endogenous and exogenous modulation of eCBs affect goal-directed behaviors. In one study I am characterizing novel photometric sensors in brain slices to study endogenous eCB signaling, and in another project I use various behavioral paradigms to study effects of THC withdrawal on sleep and motivation.



Rishitha Anumola

Student IRTA Fellow


I am interested in the function of endocannabinoids (our body’s version of THC) in our brain and how changes in the endocannabinoid system can regulate motor behaviors. Using in vivo optical fiber photometry and a genetically-encoded fluorescent cannabinoid sensor, I am studying endocannabinoid signaling in real-time in freely moving animals engaged in behavioral tasks under the supervision of Dr. Augustin.


Guoxiang (Amber) Luo, BS

Guoxiang (Amber) Luo, BS

Lab Technician 





Complete Publication List 

  1. Augustin, S.M., Chancey, J.H. and Lovinger, D.M. (2018) Dual dopaminergic regulation of corticostriatal plasticity by cholinergic interneurons and indirect pathway medium spiny neurons. Cell Reports, 24(11):2883-2893.

  2. Davis, M.I., Crittenden, J.R., Feng, A.Y., Kupferschmidt, D.A., Naydenov, A., Stella, N., Graybiel, A.M., Lovinger, D.M. (2018) The cannabinoid-1 receptor is abundantly expressed in striatal striosomes and striosome-dendron bouquets of the substantia nigra. PLoS One, 13(2):e0191436.

  3. Mateo, Y., Atwood, B.K., Johnson, K.A., Wang, H-L., Zhang, S., Cachope R., Bellochio, L., Guzman, M., Morales, M., Cheer, J.F., and Lovinger, D.M. (2017) Endocannabinoid actions on cortical terminals orchestrate local modulation of dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens. Neuron, 96(5):1112-1126.

  4. Kupferschmidt, D.A., Juczewski, K., Cui, G., Johnson, K.A., Lovinger, D.M. (2017) Parallel but dissociable processing in discrete corticostriatal inputs encodes skill learning. Neuron, 96(2):476-489.

  5. Abrahao, K.P., Chancey, J.H., Chan, C.S., and Lovinger D.M. (2017) Ethanol-sensitive pacemaker neurons in the mouse external globus pallidus. Neuropsychopharmacology, 42(5):1070-1081. 

  6. Johnson, K.A., Mateo, Y., and Lovinger, D.M. (2017) Metabotropic glutamate receptor 2 inhibits thalamically-driven glutamate and dopamine release in the dorsal striatum. Neuropharmacology, 117:114-123.

  7. Salinas, A.G., Davis, M.I., Lovinger, D.M. and Mateo, Y.M. (2016) Dopamine release and cocaine sensitivity differ between striosome and matrix compartments of the striatum. Neuropharmacology, 108:275-283.

  8. Gremel, C.M., Chancey, J., Atwood, B., Luo, G., Neve, R., Ramakrishnan, C., Deisseroth, K., Lovinger, D.M.* and Costa, R.M.* (2016) Endocannabinoid modulation of orbitostriatal circuits gates habit formation.  Neuron, 90(6):1312-1324.5

  9. Abrahao, K.P., Salinas, and Lovinger, D.M. (2017) Alcohol and the brain: Neuronal molecular targets, synapses and circuits. Neuron, 96(6):1223-1238.

  10. Augustin, S.M., and Lovinger, D.M. (2018) Functional relevance of endocannabinoid-dependent synaptic plasticity in the CNS. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 9(9):2146-2161.



Staff Scientist 

Margaret Davis, PhD - Retired


Kari Johnson, PhD - Assistant Professor, Uniformed Services University

Karina Abrahao, PhD - Assistant Professor, Universidade Federal de São Paulo

David Kupferschmidt, PhD - Staff Scientist, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 

Jessica Chancey, PhD - Research Associate, The University of Texas at Austin  

Matthew Pava, PhD - Research Scientist in the Advanced Technology Laboratories, Lockheed Martin  

Brady Atwood, PhD - Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Indiana University   

Christina Gremel, PhD - Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Califorina at San Diego 

Guohong Cui, MD, PhD - Prinicipal Investigator, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences 

Brian Mathur, PhD - Associate Professor of Pharmacology, University of Maryland  

Verginia C. Cuzon Carlson, PhD -  Assistant Scientist, Oregon National Primate Research Center

Xin Jin, PhD - Assistant Professor, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Sang Beom Jun, PhD - Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Ewha University, Seoul 

Giuseppe Talani, PhD - Research Assistant Professor, University of Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy

Louise Adermark, PhD - Reseach Assistant Professor, University of Goteborg, Sweden 

Henry Yin, PhD - Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience/Neurobiology, Duke University

Techincal IRTA Fellow 

Gabriel Loewinger, PhD candidate, Harvard University

Postbac IRTA Fellow

Lucas Voycodic, Medical student, SUNY Downstate College of Medicine 

Graduate students

Jennifer Ronesi, PhD - Freelance grant consultant 

Russell Morton, PhD  - Assistant Professor, University of New Mexico