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J. David Jentsch

 J. David Jentsch

 Professor of Psychology


Ph. D., Yale University (Neurobiology)
Area: Behavioral Neuroscience
Phone: (607) 777-4875
Office:  Science II, Room 254

Curriculum vitae (650 kb)


Professional Activities:

Member of the American College for Neuropsychopharmacology, Society for Neuroscience and College on the Problems of Drug Dependence. Regular member of the Pathophysiology of Mental Disorders and Addictions NIH study section. Scientific Advisory Board member for the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and UCSD Translational Methamphetamine/AIDS Research Center. Member of the Board of Directors of Americans for Medical Progress. Advisory editor: Psychopharmacology. Consulting editor: Behavioral Neuroscience.

Research Interests:

Behavior genetics of impulsivity, incentive motivation and drug self-administration. Neural circuitry involved in susceptibility for addictions. Neurobiology of reinforcement learning.

Research Description:

While many people use drugs and alcohol repeatedly, only a subset of these individuals go on to develop a problematic pattern of clinically-impairing substance abuse (i.e., an "addiction"). These individual differences in the clinical outcomes associated with drug use are not random; rather, some people are more susceptible than others to developing an addiction after initiation of drug intake, and twin/family studies make it clear that a substantial proportion of that risk is attributable to heritable, genetic factors.
Inspired by these facts, my laboratory group is working on a multidimensional characterization of the psychobiological factors that contribute to risk for addictions; our focus is on impulsivity: a trait of rash, uncontrolled or pathological reward-seeking which is elevated in people at risk for addictions or in animal models with a propensity to engage in heightened drug self-administration behaviors.
We use state-of-the-art methods to identify variation in both genetic and gene expression mechanisms that configure susceptibility for elevated impulsivity and drug self-administration in advanced mouse populations, including the Hybrid Mouse Diversity Panel. We further seek to identify the processes by which genes and gene expression mechanisms act within cortical and subcortical brain circuits to affect behavior. Relationships between genetically-defined cells and circuits and behavior are causally evaluated using opto- and chemical-genetic manipulations. Using an array of complementary techniques, we are spanning from gene to behavior, creating multi-scalar hypotheses that can guide the creation and evaluation of biologically-grounded prevention and intervention strategies for substance use disorders.

Philosophy of Graduate Training:

I believe that scientific research has spent the past 100 years answering most of the simple questions. The questions we are faced with today are increasingly complex and can only be solved through the use of equally complex approaches. With that in mind, I strive to create an environment in which it is possible to use diverse but complementary approaches – from cellular biology to behavior – to address problems of fundamental translational importance. I look to train a new generation of psychology PhDs who can move easily between multiple disciplines and areas of research – from genetics to neurobiology to behavioral analysis. This not only aids the science, it increases the ability of my trainees to go on to pursue a broader number of career paths and job types after completing their training.

Selected Publications:

Groman SM, James AS, Seu E, Tran S, Clark TA, Harpster SN, Crawford M, Burtner JL, Feiler K, Roth RH, Elsworth JD, London ED, Jentsch JD. In the blink of an eye: relating positive-feedback sensitivity to striatal dopamine D2-like receptors through blink rate. J Neurosci. 2014 Oct 22;34(43):14443-54.

Seu E, Groman SM, Arnold AP, Jentsch JD. Sex chromosome complement influences operant responding for a palatable food in mice. Genes Brain Behav. 2014 Jul;13(6):527-34.

Jentsch JD, Ashenhurst JR, Cervantes MC, Groman SM, James AS, Pennington ZT. Dissecting impulsivity and its relationships to drug addictions. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014 Oct;1327:1-26.

Ashenhurst JR, Bujarski S, Jentsch JD, Ray LA. Modeling behavioral reactivity to losses and rewards on the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART): moderation by alcohol problem severity. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2014 Aug;22(4):298-306.

Cui Y, Ostlund SB, James AS, Park CS, Ge W, Roberts KW, Mittal N, Murphy NP, Cepeda C, Kieffer BL, Levine MS, Jentsch JD, Walwyn WM, Sun YE, Evans CJ, Maidment NT, Yang XW. Targeted expression of μ-opioid receptors in a subset of striatal direct-pathway neurons restores opiate reward. Nat Neurosci. 2014 Feb;17(2):254-61.

Ma YY, Henley SM, Toll J, Jentsch JD, Evans CJ, Levine MS, Cepeda C. Drug-primed reinstatement of cocaine seeking in mice: increased excitability of medium-sized spiny neurons in the nucleus accumbens. ASN Neuro. 2013 Oct 2;5(4):257-71.
Cervantes MC, Laughlin RE, Jentsch JD. Cocaine self-administration behavior in inbred mouse lines segregating different capacities for inhibitory control. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Oct;229(3):515-25.

Last Updated: 9/28/17