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.)

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 Jun 3;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. Biological psychiatry 2015 Aug 7. pii: S0006-3223(15)00640-X

Peterson BM, Mermelstein PG, Meisel RL. Impact of immersion oils and mounting media on the confocal imaging of dendritic spines. J Neurosci Methods. 2015 Jan 17;242C:106-111.

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 Sep 1;271:39-42.

Peterson BM, Mermelstein PG, Meisel RL. Estradiol mediates dendritic spine plasticity in the nucleus accumbens core through activation of mGluR5. Brain Structure and Function. 2015 Jul;220(4):2415-22.

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 Nov;219(6):2071-81.

Zlebnik NE, Hedges VL, Carroll ME, Meisel RL. (2014) Chronic wheel running affects cocaine-induced c-Fos expression in brain reward areas in rats. Behav Brain Res. 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 Aug;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 Aug 29;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 Jan;215(3-4):187-94. Epub 2010 Oct 16.

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 Jan 7;487(2):177-81. Epub 2010 Oct 15.

Hedges VL, Staffend NA, Meisel RL. Neural mechanisms of reproduction in females as a predisposing factor for drug addiction. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2010 Apr;31(2):217-31. Epub 2010 Feb 19.

Delta FosB overexpression in the nucleus accumbens enhances sexual reward in female Syrian hamsters. Hedges VL, Chakravarty S, Nestler EJ, Meisel RL. Genes Brain Behav. 2009 Jun;8(4):442-9. Erratum in: Genes Brain Behav. 2009 Oct;8(7):733.

Bradley, K.C., Mullins, A.J., Meisel, R.L. and Watts, V.J. (2004). Sexual experience alters dopamine D1 receptor mediated cyclic AMP produiction in the nucleus accumbens of female Syrian hamsters. Synapse, 53, 20-27.

Bradley, K.C., Bouware, M.B., Jiang, H., Doerge, R.W., Meisel, R.L. and Mermelstein, P.M. (2005). Sexual experience generates distinct patterns of gene expression within the nucleus accumbens and dorsal stratum of female Syrian hamsters. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 4, 31-44.

Shelley, D.N. and Meisel, R.L. (2005). The effects of mating stumulation on c-Fos immunoreactivity in the female hamster medial amygdala are region and context dependent. Hormones and Behavior, 47, 212-222.

Bradley, K.C., Haas, A.R. and Meisel, R.L. (2005). 6-Hydroxydopamine lesions in female hamsters abolish the sensitized effects of sexual experience on copulatory interactions with males. Behavioral Neuroscience, 119, 224-232.

Chester, J.A., Mullins, A.J., Nguyen, C.H., Watts, V.J. and Meisel, R.L. (2006). Repeated quinpirole treatments produce neurochemical sensitization and associated behavioral changes in female hamsters. Psychopharmacology, 188, 53-62.

Meisel, R.L. and Mullins, A.J. (2006). Sexual experience in female rodents: cellular mechanisms and functional consequences. Brain Research, 1126, 66-75.

Current Graduate Students:

Kelsey Moore (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota)

Kellie Gross (Neuroscience, University of Minnesota)

Former Graduate Students:

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