The Urs Lab

Dopamine (DA) is a catecholamine neurotransmitter found in the mammalian brain and regulates many critical physiological processes such as movement, cognition, motivation, reward/pleasure, and hormone regulation. Dysfunction of the dopamine system has been implicated in many brain disorders, including Parkinson’s disease (PD), schizophrenia, OCD, and ADHD.

What motivates us?

Motivation is the drive to perform actions to achieve goals, and is crucial for survival. In neurobiology, motivation is regulated by combination of movement (action) and reward/pleasure (reinforcer), which ensures that an animal achieves its goals consistently. Lack of or too much motivation can be harmful, and has been implicated in the etiology of various disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, Parkinson’s and drug addiction.

Dopamine is at the center of regulating movement, reward-based learning and motivation, and dopamine dysfunction has been implicated in all of the above disorders. The goals of our lab are to identify and map neuronal circuits that regulate dopamine signaling, motivation, movement and reward, by using state of the art tools such as viral tracing, opto/chemogenetics, fiber photometry, and operant behavioral conditioning. Deciphering the mechanisms that regulate dopamine neuronal circuits and motivation will allow us to develop novel therapeutic strategies to treat disorders such as addiction, depression and schizophrenia.

Research Tools

  • Cell Culture
  • High throughput small molecule drug-screening: GLOSensor and BRET assays
  • Neuron tracing
  • Fiber Photometry GCamp and dLight/GRABda
  • AAV and Lentiviral production
  • Immunohistochemistry and microscopy
  • Microdialysis
  • Behavioral pharmacology



Retrograde Labeling Illuminates Distinct Topographical Organization of D1 and D2 Receptor-Positive Pyramidal Neurons in the Prefrontal Cortex of Mice. eNeuro. 7(5) [DOI] 10.1523/ENEURO.0194-20.2020. [PMID] 33037031.

Structure-Functional-Selectivity Relationship Studies of Novel Apomorphine Analogs to Develop D1R/D2R Biased Ligands. ACS medicinal chemistry letters. 11(3):385-392 [DOI] 10.1021/acsmedchemlett.9b00575. [PMID] 32184974.



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