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headshot of J. David Jentsch

J. David Jentsch

Distinguished Professor and Chair



A subgroup of people who initiate use of potentially addictive substances will progressively experience problems related to their use; Jentsch's work seeks to understand the biological sources of that vulnerability. 

To that end, his lab focuses on the interaction between genetic and environmental factors that influence individual susceptibility to drug and alcohol use, as well as the neural circuits that mediate the effects of these risk factors on behavior. To address this question, they use advanced mouse genetic reference populations to examine how inherited factors influence behavioral processes such as incentive motivation, impulse control and the development of voluntary drug/alcohol consumption and their associated neural circuitry, as well as neuroimaging in human subjects.

The lab also seeks to identify intermediate biological mechanisms, from gene expression to neural circuit levels, that explain how DNA variation ultimately influences behavior; they use molecular assays, ex vivo voltammetry and in vivo fiber photometry to study these processes. In another set of investigations, the lab delineates the mechanisms by which environmental factors — particularly early developmental (in utero) exposure to alcohol — influence offspring drug/alcohol use later in life. In both lines of research, sex differences and the interaction between sex, genetics and environmental exposures are a key focus of study.


  • PhD, MA, Yale University School of Medicine
  • BA, The Johns Hopkins University

Research Interests

  • Behavior genetics
  • Drug addiction and alcoholism
  • Impulsivity
  • Incentive motivation
  • Reinforcement and reward

Teaching Interests

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Biological Basis of Mental Illness
  • Behavior Genetics
  • Effective NIH Grantsmanship


  • 2012 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility from the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 2011 Jacob P. Waletzky Award for Innovative Research in Drug Addiction and Alcoholism from the Society for Neuroscience
  • 2010 Joseph Cochin Young Investigator Award from the College on the Problems of Drug Dependence

Research Profile

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Curriculum Vitae

Curriculum Vitae