Dieter Brandner

Entering Class - 2018

Member of MSTP (MD/PhD) program


PhD: 2022

PhD Thesis

Neuroligin-3 modulates opioid-evoked changes in behavior and brain function

Undergraduate Institution and Major:

Whitman College, B.A. in Biology, 2013

Graduate Advisor

Patrick Rothwell, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience

Graduate Research

The nucleus accumbens is an important neural substrate of motivated behavior, and alterations in accumbens circuitry have been implicated in a host of human neuropsychiatric disorders ranging from addiction and drug abuse to obsessive compulsive disorder and autism spectrum disorders. I am working with Dr. Patrick Rothwell to investigate the role inhibitory synapses in controlling nucleus accumbens physiology and the behavioral effects of alterations to inhibitory signaling in this region. We are currently interested in the role of Neuroligin-3, a postsynaptic adhesion protein, in controlling structural plasticity at inhibitory synapses following exposure to drugs of abuse

Graduate Publications

  • Brandner DD, Retzlaff CL, Stieve BJ, Mermelstein PG, Rothwell RE. Neuroligin-2 in dopamine neurons promote behavioral and neurobiological adaptations to chronic morphine exposure. BioRXiv. doi:
  • Trieu BH, Remmers BC, Toddes C, Brandner DD, Lefevre EM, Kocharian A, Retzlaff CL, Dick RM, Mashal MA, Gauthier EA, Xie W, Zhang Y, More SS, Rothwell PE. Angiotensin-converting enzyme gates brain circuit-specific plasticity via an endogenous opioid. Science. 2022 Mar 11;375(6585):1177-1182.
  • Toddes C, Lefevre EM, Brandner DD, Zugschwert L, Rothwell PE. Mu opioid receptor (Oprm1) copy number influences nucleus accumbens microcircuitry and reciprocal social behaviors. J Neurosci. 2021; 41:7965-7977.
  • Gross KS, Brandner DD, Martinez LA, Olive MF, Meisel RL, Mermelstein PG. Opposite effects of mGluR1a and mGluR5 activation on nucleus accumbens medium spiny neuron dendritic spine density. PLoS One. 2016; 11:e0162755.
  • Bagi Z, Brandner DD, Le P, McNeal DW, Gong X, Dou H, Fulton DJ, Beller A, Ngyuen T, Larson EB, Montine TJ, Keene CD, Back SA. Vasodilator dysfunction and oligodendrocyte dysmaturation in aging white matter. Ann Neurol. 2018 Jan;83(1):142-152.
  • McNeal DW, Brandner DD, Gong X, Postupna NO, Montine TJ, Keene CD, Back SA. Unbiased Stereological Analysis of Reactive Astrogliosis to Estimate Age-Associated Cerebral White Matter Injury. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2016 Jun;75(6):539-54.

Graduate Awards

NIH Ruth Kirschstein Individual F30 Research Service Award 2020-2024

Morris Smithberg Memorial Award   2020

Graduate Abstracts

Brandner DD, Bullock D, Riskalla M, Armbrust K, Yamanuha J. Clinical utility of MRI in pediatric patients with uveitis and optic disc edema. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci ARVO Abstr. 2022;63:3729.


Paul Mermelstein, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience

Patrick Rothwell, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience


    Picture of Dieter Brandner