The Levitt Lab

Research in the Levitt Lab is focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying opioid-induced respiratory depression, which is the cause of death from opioid overdose. This is a timely problem given that the opioid epidemic accounts for nearly 50,000 deaths in the US annually and rising.

It is also an interesting biological question, and our research will help us understand the circuitry that generates and controls breathing – one of our most fundamental behaviors. We use sophisticated electrophysiology approaches and in vivo measurements of breathing in combination with viral and genetic mouse models to target specific neuronal types.


Trainee Accomplishments:

Jordan Bateman (PhD candidate) – F31 NRSA from NIH/NIDA

Adrienn Varga (post-doc) – Walter Oppelt Distinguished Trainee Publication in Pharmacology & Therapeutics



Varga AG, Maletz SN, Bateman JT, Reid BT and Levitt ES (2021) Neurochemistry of the Kölliker-Fuse nucleus from a respiratory perspective. J Neurochem 156:16-37. PMID:32396650


Varga AG, Reid BT, Kieffer BL and Levitt ES (2020) Differential impact of two critical respiratory centers in opioid-induced respiratory depression in awake mice. J Physiol 598:189-205. PMID:31589332

*Selected as Editor’s Choice, and published in a special issue “Experimental Biology 2020” which showcases best papers the journal has published over the last year.

**Highlighted by a Perspectives article published in the same issue:


Saunders SE and Levitt ES (2020) Kölliker-Fuse/Parabrachial complex mu opioid receptors contribute to fentanyl-induced apnea and respiratory rate depression. Respir Physiol Neurobiol 275:103388. PMID:3195324