Neurophysiology of Psychiatric Diseases

The goal of the Pleil Lab at Weill Cornell is to identify and characterize the neural mechanisms of addiction and comorbid anxiety and affective neuropsychiatric disorders. Given the high degree of comorbidity between addiction and anxiety/mood disorders in women but the dearth of fundamental knowledge about the underpinnings of these neuropsychiatric diseases, we are particularly interested in the circuit and synaptic mechanisms of drug use and stress responsivity, as well as the plasticity that contributes to the development of disease states. Specifically, we focus on the role of sex hormones in 1) the organization of behaviorally-relevant limbic circuits, 2) the activity of cell type- and projection-defined neuronal populations within these circuits, and 3) the receptor-specific signaling of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters at critical synaptic nodes. Using a number of complementary molecular, physiological, and behavioral techniques, including neuronal tracing, in situ hybridization, slice electrophysiology, and in vivo and ex vivo optogenetics, chemogenetics, and biosensor imaging, we analyze neural mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disease states at the anatomical, molecular, cellular, synaptic, circuit, and behavioral levels.

Weill Cornell Medicine          WCM Pharmacology Department          WCM Pharmacology Graduate Program         WCM Neuroscience Graduate Program


A description of the projects going on in the lab is coming soon!


Kristen Pleil

Principal Investigator

Kristen began her position as an Assistant Professor in the Pharmacology Department at WCM in June 2016. She received her PhD in 2010 from Duke University, where she studied estrogen-mediated neural plasticity during learning and memory. She then completed her postdoc in the laboratory of Thomas Kash at the UNC School of Medicine, where she characterized neuropeptide signaling mechanisms of binge alcohol drinking and investigated the effects of chronic exposure to stress and alcohol on limbic circuits.      Kristen Pleil CV

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Jean Rivera

Graduate Student (Neuroscience)

Jean joined the lab in 2017. He is this happy even when he is in the midst of running a massive mouse behavior experiment.

Sydney Rowson

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Lia Zallar

Graduate Student (Pharmacology)

Lia joined the lab in fall 2019. She graduated from Reed College with a degree in Neuroscience, and her undergraduate research focused on ghrelin signaling in appetitive reward and alcohol use. Lia did a post-baccalaureate fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, where she conducted translational research collaborations in Dr. Lorenzo Leggio’s laboratory at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and Dr. George Koob’s laboratory at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She is interested in aromatase activity in estrogen modulation of circuits linked to alcohol use and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Scottie Nelson

Research Technician

Matt Hartmann

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dezhi Liu

Research Technician



Available positions

bw-nycWe are recruiting motivated postdocs with experience/interest using slice electrophysiology, in vivo calcium imaging/fiber photometry, and single cell approaches to study alcohol/drug abuse and other neuropsychiatric diseases. Let us know about yourself!