Robert Meisel, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Neuroscience


Research Interests:

Behavioral Disorders are often pathological extensions of normal behavioral processes. Just as depression may be an inappropriate expression of grief addiction can be viewed as a corruption of motivated behaviors. The focus of this laboratory's research is the use of female sexual behavior in rodents as a model system to further our understanding of neural mechanisms of motivation, and by extension compare these mechanisms to those mediating addiction. One approach that we take is based on the observation that repeated drug use produces changes in the structure and cellular properties of dopaminergic neurons. We have found that a similar neural plasticity in dopamine pathways is seen following repeated sexual experience in female hamsters. By comparing neural changes to drugs with those resulting from engaging in natural behaviors, we can parse the neural components of drug addiction consequent to exposure to powerful pharmacological agents from the endogenous neural plasticity that underlies activities in everyday life.

Selected Publications:

(For a comprehensive list of recent publications, refer to PubMed, a service provided by the National Library of Medicine.)

  • Meitzen J, Meisel RL, Mermelstein PG. Sex differences and the effects of estradiol on striatal function. Curr Opin Behav Sci. 2018;23:42-48.
  • Moore KM, Himmler BT, Teplitzky BA, Johnson MD, Meisel RL.Measuring in vivo changes in extracellular neurotransmitters during naturally rewarding behaviors in female Syrian hamsters. J Vis Exp. 2017 Sep 12;(127). doi: 10.3791/56135.
  • Micevych PE, Meisel RL.Integrating neural circuits controlling female sexual behavior. Front Syst Neurosci. 2017 Jun 8;11:42.
  • Been LE, Mermelstein PG, Meisel RL. Using a pop-science book to teach introductory neuroscience: Advantages for science majors and non-science majors alike. J Undergrad Neurosci Educ. 2016;15(1):A67-A71
  • Martinez LA, Gross KS, Himmler BT, Emmitt NL, Peterson BM, Zlebnik NE, Foster Olive M, Carroll ME, Meisel RL, Mermelstein PG. Estradiol facilitation of cocaine self-administration in female rats requires activation of mGluR5. eNeuro. 2016 Oct 25;3(5).
  • 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 Sep 12;11(9):e0162755.
  • Peterson BM, Martinez LA, Meisel RL, Mermelstein PG. Estradiol impacts the endocannabinoid system in female rats to influence behavioral and structural responses to cocaine. Neuropharmacology. 2016;110(Pt A):118-124.
  • Been LE, Moore KD, Kennedy BC, Meisel RL. Metabotropic glutamate receptor and Fragile X signaling in a female model of escalated aggression. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;79(8):685-92.
  • Peterson BM, Mermelstein PG, Meisel RL. Impact of immersion oils and mounting media on the confocal imaging of dendritic spines. J Neurosci Methods. 2015;242C:106-111.
  • Peterson BM, Mermelstein PG, Meisel RL. Estradiol mediates dendritic spine plasticity in the nucleus accumbens core through activation of mGluR5. Brain Struct Funct. 2015;220:2415-22
  • Martinez LA, Peterson BM, Meisel RL, Mermelstein PG. Estradiol facilitation of cocaine-induced locomotor sensitization in female rats requires activation of mGluR5. Behav Brain Res. 2014;271:39-42.
  • Staffend NA, Hedges VL, Chemel BR, Watts VJ, Meisel RL. Cell-type specific increases in female hamster nucleus accumbens spine density following female sexual experience. Brain Struct Funct. 2014;219(6):2071-81.
  • Zlebnik NE, Hedges VL, Carroll ME, Meisel RL. Chronic wheel running affects cocaine-induced c-Fos expression in brain reward areas in rats. Behav Brain Res. 2014;261:71-8
  • Been LE, Hedges VL, Vialou V, Nestler EJ, Meisel RL. ΔJunD overexpression in the nucleus accumbens prevents sexual reward in female Syrian hamsters. Genes Brain Behav. 2013;12(6):666-72.
  • Been LE, Staffend NA, Tucker A, Meisel RL. Vesicular glutamate transporter 2 and tyrosine hydroxylase are not co-localized in Syrian hamster nucleus accumbens afferents. Neurosci Lett. 2013;550:41-5.
  • Regier PS, Carroll ME, Meisel RL. Cocaine-induced c-Fos expression in rats selectively bred for high or low saccharin intake and in rats selected for high or low impulsivity. Behav Brain Res. 2012 233:271-279.
  • Xie K, Ge S, Collins VE, Haynes CL, Renner KJ, Meisel RL, Lujan R, Martemyanov KA. Gβ5-RGS complexes are gatekeepers of hyperactivity involved in control of multiple neurotransmitter systems. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012;219:823-834.
  • Klingerman CM, Patel A, Hedges VL, Meisel RL, Schneider JE. Food restriction dissociates sexual motivation, sexual performance, and the rewarding consequences of copulation in female Syrian hamsters. Behav Brain Res. 2011;223:356-370.
  • Staffend NA, Meisel RL. DiOlistic labeling in fixed brain slices: phenotype, morphology, and dendritic spines. Curr Protoc Neurosci. 2011 Apr;Chapter 2:Unit 2.13.
  • Staffend NA, Meisel RL. DiOlistic labeling of neurons in tissue slices: A qualitative and quantitative analysis of methodological variations. Front Neuroanat. 2011 Mar 1;5:14.
  • Staffend NA, Loftus CM, Meisel RL. Estradiol reduces dendritic spine density in the ventral striatum of female Syrian hamsters. Brain Struct Funct. 2011;215(3-4):187-94.
  • Meitzen J, Pflepsen KR, Stern CM, Meisel RL, Mermelstein PG. Measurements of neuron soma size and density in rat dorsal striatum, nucleus accumbens core and nucleus accumbens shell: differences between striatal region and brain hemisphere, but not sex. Neurosci Lett. 2011;487:177-81.

Current Graduate Students:

Kelsey Moore (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota)

Former Graduate Students:

Kellie Gross (PhD 2017; Neuroscience, University of Minnesota)

Brittni Peterson (Ph.D. 2016, Neuroscience, University of Minnesota)

Valerie Hedges (Ph.D. 2011, Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Nancy Michael (Ph.D. 2012, Neuroscience, University of Minnesota).

Bob Meisel