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Alexxai V. Kravitz, Ph.D.


Eating and Addiction Section, Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch


Building 10, Room 5-5932
10 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20814


Research Topics

Research Goal

The goal of our research is to understand how different diets can change the function of basal ganglia circuits and how these changes contribute to obesity.

Current Research

I am interested in the study of basal ganglia circuits and how their function changes in disease states such as obesity, addiction, and depression.  Under normal conditions, the basal ganglia drives animals toward the selection of specific behavioral outcomes.  Learning can bias this selection process toward specific behavior by altering synapses within and outside the basal ganglia.  In extreme cases, these synaptic alterations can produce pathological behavioral selection, as in obesity or addiction.  Using behavioral testing, optogenetics, and in vivo electrophysiology and optical measurements, the lab characterizes changes in behavior following learning in a feeding context and attempts to understand the neural correlates and causes of these changes in behavior.​

Applying our Research

The circuits we are studying may represent therapeutic targets that can help people change their feeding behavior and ultimately reduce obesity.  Additionally, basic science can help the public learn about the brain changes associated with obesity and understand why it is so difficult for obese individuals to change their behavior.

Need for Further Study

Despite ongoing research, it remains unclear how diets high in fat and calories affect reward circuitry in the brain and how to reverse such changes to combat obesity.


  • Postdoc, Gladstone Institutes of Neurological Disease, 2009-2013
  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2009
  • B.A., Wesleyan University, 2001

Selected Publications

  1. Lute B, Jou W, Lateef DM, Goldgof M, Xiao C, Piñol RA, Kravitz AV, Miller NR, Huang YG, Girardet C, Butler AA, Gavrilova O, Reitman ML. Biphasic effect of melanocortin agonists on metabolic rate and body temperature. Cell Metab. 2014;20(2):333-45.
  2. Friend DM, Kravitz AV. Working together: basal ganglia pathways in action selection. Trends Neurosci. 2014;37(6):301-3.
  3. Kravitz AV, Owen SF, Kreitzer AC. Optogenetic identification of striatal projection neuron subtypes during in vivo recordings. Brain Res. 2013;1511:21-32.
  4. Kravitz AV, Kreitzer AC. Striatal mechanisms underlying movement, reinforcement, and punishment. Physiology (Bethesda). 2012;27(3):167-77.
  5. Kravitz AV, Tye LD, Kreitzer AC. Distinct roles for direct and indirect pathway striatal neurons in reinforcement. Nat Neurosci. 2012;15(6):816-8.
This page was last updated on September 5th, 2014