Neurophysiology of Addiction and Affective Disorders

The goal of the Pleil Lab at Weill Cornell is to identify and characterize the neural circuit mechanisms of the development and maintenance of addiction to alcohol and drugs of abuse and comorbid mood disorders. To do this, we investigate two overlapping areas: 1) peptide signaling within discrete limbic brain circuits and 2) mechanisms of sex differences in these circuits and corresponding behaviors, including contributions by genes and modulation by the signaling of sex hormones. Approaches to answering these questions include a number of complementary molecular, physiological, and behavioral techniques, including neuronal tracing, in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, slice electrophysiology, and in vivo and ex vivo optogenetics and chemogenetics. These techniques allow us to analyze neural circuit mechanisms at the anatomical, molecular, cellular, synaptic, circuit, and behavioral levels.

Weill Cornell Medicine homepage          WCM Pharmacology Department          WCM Pharmacology 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 in Christina Williams’ lab. She then completed her postdoc in the laboratory of Thomas Kash at the UNC School of Medicine, where she characterized peptide 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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Olivia Levine

Graduate Student

Olivia graduated from Brandeis University in 2013, where she majored neuroscience and biology. She completed her senior thesis research in the laboratory of Steven Goldstein, where she studied the biophysical properties of voltage-gated potassium channels. She is now a second year neuroscience PhD student studying the neural circuitry of addictive and affective disorders, specifically how peptide signaling alters neuronal excitability in these disorders.

Jared Boyce

Research Technician

Jared graduated from Dartmouth College in the Spring of 2016, where he majored in Neuroscience and  minored in the Anthropology of Global Health. He completed his senior independent research project on the effects of deep brain stimulation on binge eating behavior under the guidance of Dr. Alan I. Green and Dr. Wilder Doucette at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Jared intends to pursue an MD/PhD in the future.


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Get in touch!

bw-nycWe are currently looking for motivated postdocs and graduate students to join our lab. Let us know about yourself if you’re interested.