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Faculty - Behavioral Neuroscience

J. David Jentsch [Edit Page]


Ph. D., Yale University

Behavioral Neuroscience

Contact Information

Office: 8425B FH

Phone: (310) 825-8258


Research and Teaching Interests

Research in my laboratory focuses, to a large degree, on the neurobiological mechanisms that lead to a loss of self control over reward-seeking in addictive disorders. More than 10 years ago now, Jane Taylor (Yale) and I proposed the view that the relapsing nature of drug and alcohol addictions may be best explained by pathology within brain circuits involved in inhibitory control over behavior. These are circuits that the drug-naive brain calls upon to suppress inappropriate actions and that are targets of deleterious neuroadapations in people with a substance abuse problem. 
Our on-going research addresses two main issues: 1) how heritable differences in the ability to inhibit reward-seeking actions ("impulsivity") mediates susceptibility for initiating drug and/or alcohol use and 2) how the pharmacological effects of drugs and alcohol, once consumed, further disrupt inhibitory control.
Whether discovering candidate genes and gene expression networks that mark impulsivity-related susceptibility to addiction or monitoring the neurochemical changes that mediate the progressive neuroadapations elicited by drugs, we are trying to identify new mechanisms that can be the targets for interventions aimed at restoring individual control over drug use. 

Biosketch/Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Jentsch has been on the faculty in the Department of Psychology since 2001. He is now a Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, as well as the Associate Director for Research of the Brain Research Institute.

His work on the neuroscience of substance abuse has been recognized by the 2010 Joseph Cochin Young Investigator Award from the College on the Problems of Drug Dependence and the 2011 Jacob P. Waletzky Award for Innovative Research on Drug Abuse and Alcoholism from the Society for Neuroscience.

In addition to maintaining an active research and teaching program focused on behavioral neuroscience, neurogenetics and psychopharmacology, he has played a national role in scientific advocacy around the issue of humane use of animals in biomedical research and discovery. He formed the group Pro-test for Science and contributes to the mission of several research advocacy groups, including Speaking of Research and Americans for Medical Progress.

His efforts to promote scientific advocacy have been recognized by the 2012 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His work was recently profiled in the Monitor of the American Psychological Association (


Representative Publications

Groman SM, Lee B, Seu E, James AS, Feiler K, Mandelkern M, London ED and Jentsch JD (2012) Dysregulation of D2-mediated dopamine transmission in monkeys after chronic, escalating methamphetamine exposure. J. Neurosci., 32(17):5843-52.

Groman SM, James AS, Seu E, Crawford MA, Harpster S and Jentsch JD (2013) Monoamine levels within the orbitofrontal cortex and putamen interact to predict reversal learning performance. Biol. Psychiatry, 73(8):756-62.

Cervantes MC, Laughlin RE, Jentsch JD (2013) Cocaine self-administration behavior in inbred mouse lines segregating different capacities for inhibitory control. Psychopharmacol. 229(3):515-25.

Jentsch JD and Pennington ZT (2013) Reward, interrupted: Inhibitory control and its relevance to addictions. Neuropharmacol. (Special Issue dedicated to the 40th Anniversary of the National Institute on Drug Abuse), in press.


Professor Jentsch's Publications on Pubmed

Read our recent review article published in a special issue of the journal "Neuropharmacology" dedicated to the 40th Anniversary of the National Institute on Drug Abuse  pdf icon

Faculty Awards