Robert Meisel, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Neuroscience

E-MAIL: [email protected]

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.)

  • Hall MAL, Kohut-Jackson AL, Peyla AC, Friedman GD, Simco NJ, Borland JM, Meisel RL. Melanocortin receptor 3 and 4 mRNA expression in the adult female Syrian hamster brain. Front Mol Neurosci. 2023 Feb 23;16:1038341.
  • Huijgens PT, Snoeren EMS, Meisel RL, Mermelstein PG. Effects of gonadectomy and dihydrotestosterone on neuronal plasticity in motivation and reward related brain regions in the male rat. J Neuroendocrinol. 2021 Jan;33(1):e12918.
  • Borland JM, Kim E, Swanson SP, Rothwell PE, Mermelstein PG, Meisel RL. Effect of aggressive experience in female syrian hamsters on glutamate receptor expression in the nucleus accumbens. Front Behav Neurosci. 2020 Nov 23;14:583395.
  • Moore KM, Oelberg WL, Glass MR, Johnson MD, Been LE, Meisel RL. Glutamate afferents from the medial prefrontal cortex mediate nucleus accumbens activation by female sexual behavior. Front Behav Neurosci. 2019 Oct 4;13:227.
  • Been LE, Gibbons AB, Meisel RL. Towards a neurobiology of female aggression. Neuropharmacology. 2019 Sep 15;156:107451.
  • Gross KS, Moore KM, Meisel RL, Mermelstein PG. mGluR5 mediates dihydrotestosterone-induced nucleus accumbens structural plasticity, but not conditioned reward. Front Neurosci. 2018 Nov 20;12:855.
  • 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):685-692.
  • 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;220:2415-2422
  • 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;219:2071-2081.
  • 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;261:71-78

Former Graduate Students:

Kelsey Moore (Ph.D. 2018, Neuroscience, University of Minnesota)

Kellie Gross (Ph.D. 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).

Picture of Robert Meisel