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Séminaire - Alexxai Kravitz“Motion and Emotion in the Basal Ganglia”

Abstract :

The prevalence of obesity has increased rapidly over the past 30 years, and obesity-related illnesses are now a leading cause of death in the US. There are multiple reasons for this growth, but increases in food intake are a large contributor. Put simply, Americans consume about 25% more calories than we did 30 years ago. While the solution to this problem appears simple – eat less! – more and more people are finding this impossible to do. Why is it so difficult for us to eat less? And what’s changed in the past 30 years to make it even more difficult?

The main goal of the lab is to understand how diet affects reward circuitry in the brain. The lab investigates the hypothesis that certain diets can alter and impair neural circuits that regulate reward processing and food consumption, similar to how drugs of abuse impair these circuits in addicts. The lab uses a variety of approaches to examine this hypothesis, including behavioral testing, in vivo electrophysiology, and optogenetics.

Selected publications

Kravitz AV, Kreitzer AC. (2012) Striatal mechanisms underlying movement, reinforcement, and punishment. Physiology. 27(3):167-77.

Kravitz AV, Tye LD, Kreitzer AC. (2012) Distinct roles for direct and indirect pathway striatal neurons in reinforcement. Nature Neuroscience. doi: 10.1038/nn.3100.

Kravitz AV, Kreitzer AC. (2011) Optogenetic manipulation of neural circuitry in vivo. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 21(3):433-9. 2011 Mar 21. Review.

Kravitz AV, Freeze BS, Parker PR, Kay K, Thwin MT, Deisseroth K, Kreitzer AC. (2010) Regulation of parkinsonian motor behaviours by optogenetic control of basal ganglia circuitry. Nature. 466(7306):622-6.

Kravitz AV, Peoples LL. (2008) Background firing rates of orbitofrontal neurons reflect specific characteristics of operant sessions and modulate phasic responses to reward-associated cues and behavior. J Neurosci. 28(4):1009-18.

Guilaume Ferreira (guillaume.ferreira @

“Motion and Emotion in the Basal Ganglia”

Lex Kravitz is an Investigator at the US National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, Maryland, USA). Over the past four years his research has been focused on the basal ganglia, using optogenetics to drive ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ pathway neurons in the striatum. He has found that direct pathway neurons elicit movement and facilitate positive emotional responses. In contrast, indirect pathway neurons inhibit movement and facilitate negative emotional responses. As many psychiatric and neurological disorders involve both motor and emotional changes, Lex will discuss these findings in the context of depression, addiction, and obesity.

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