djentsch's picture
J. David Jentsch
Ph. D.,
Yale University (Neurobiology)
Primary Area:
Behavioral Neuroscience
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 uses genetically-tractable mouse models to 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.

***********Dr Jentsch will not be accepting graduate students in 2015.


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. He is a Past Associate Director for Research of the Brain Research Institute (2009-2014).

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.

Representative Publications:

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


Cui YJ, 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 WX (2014) Targeted expression of mu opioid receptors in a subset of striatal direct-pathway neurons restores opiate reward. Nature Neurosci., 17(2):254-61.


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


Jentsch JD, Ashenhurst JR, Cervantes MC, Groman SM, James AS, Pennington ZT. Dissecting impulsivity and its relationship to drug addictions. Addiction Rev. (Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci.), 327(1):1-26.