Alexxai V. Kravitz, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Neurosciences Program

  • 314 362-5184



  • The study of basal ganglia circuits and how their function changes in disease states such as obesity, addiction, and anxiety disorders

Research Abstract:

Dr. Kravitz is interested in the study of basal ganglia circuits and how their function changes in disease states such as obesity, addiction, and anxiety disorders. Under normal conditions, the basal ganglia drives animals toward the selection of adaptive behavioral outcomes. Learning can bias this selection process toward specific behavior by altering synapses within and outside the basal ganglia. Unfortunately, these same synaptic alterations can be hijacked by disease, resulting in unhealthy behavioral outputs, such as in obesity and drug addiction. Using high throughput behavioral testing, optogenetics, and electrical and optical brain recordings, the Kravitz lab characterizes changes in behavior in animal models of disease, and attempts to understand the neural correlates and causes of these changes.

Mentorship and Commitment to Diversity Statement:
The ability to mentor and train the next generation of scientists is crucial to scientific discovery.  I follow four points to guide my approach to training and mentorship in my lab:

1) Everyone learns differently. I try to present ideas in different ways to different people and maintain an active gauge of how well everyone understands difficult concepts. If someone is having trouble with a technique I try different ways of teaching it to them, or give them time and resources to learn at their own pace.

2) Shared goals and responsibilities. Trainees have a responsibility to perform at a high level in both the classroom and laboratory. Mentors have a responsibility to make sure students reach their full potential in these settings. Success is best achieved with regular communication, as well as written development plans that outline the goals of both parties, and how they can work together to achieve their shared goals.

3) Written plans. I believe in explicitly writing out shared goals, and plotting a course towards achieving them.  This is true for all goals, both big and small. I encourage students in my lab to write out both short and long term goals, in terms of scientific growth, training on new techniques, and professional development. This written plan allows both the mentor and the mentee to understand the goals and path up front, and to become aware of when they are deviating from these goals and need to correct the course.

4) Commitment to Diversity. I am committed to enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in my lab and in the larger Wash U communities that I am a part of. My lab welcomes anyone who wants to learn and grow as a scientist, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity and expression, nation of origin, age, languages spoken, veteran’s status, color, religion, disability, and sexual orientation. Science requires a diversity of thoughts, ideas, and opinions to move forward, and I value lab members who push our thinking in new directions.

Selected Publications:

Bariselli S, Miyazaki NL, Creed MC, Kravitz AV. Orbitofrontal-striatal potentiation underlies cocaine-induced hyperactivity. Nat Commun. 2020 Aug 10;11(1):3996.

Matikainen-Ankney BA, Ali MA, Miyazaki NL, Fry SA, Licholai JA, Kravitz AV. Weight Loss After Obesity is Associated with Increased Food Motivation and Faster Weight Regain in Mice. Obesity 2020 May;28(5):851-856.

Fobbs WC, Bariselli S, Licholai JA, Miyazaki NL, Matikainen-Ankney BA, Creed MC, Kravitz AV. Continuous Representations of Speed by Striatal Medium Spiny Neurons. J Neurosci. 2020 Feb 19;40(8):1679-1688.

Licholai JA, Nguyen K, Fobbs W, Schuster C, Ali MA, Kravitz AV. Why do mice over-eat high fat diets? How high fat diet alters the regulation of daily caloric intake in mice. Obesity. 2018 Apr 29.

LeBlanc KH, London T, Szcot I, Bocarsly M, Friend DM, Nguyen K, Mengesha M, Rubinstein M, Alvarez VA, Kravitz AV. Striatopallidal neurons control avoidance behavior in exploratory tasks. Molecular Psychiatry 2018 Apr 25.

Friend DM, Devarakonda K, O'Neal TJ, Skirzewsk M, Papazoglou I, Kaplan A, Liow J, Guo J, Rane, SG, Rubinstein M, Alvarez VA, Hall KD, Kravitz AV. Basal ganglia dysfunction contributes to physical inactivity in obesity. Cell Metabolism. 2017 Feb 7;25(2):312-321

O’Neal TJ, Friend DM, Guo J, Hall KD, Kravitz AV. Increases in physical activity result in diminishing increments in daily energy expenditure in mice. Current Biology. 2017 Feb 6;27(3):423-430

Kravitz AV, Tye LD, Kreitzer AC. Distinct roles for direct and indirect pathway striatal neurons in reinforcement. Nature Neurosci. 2012 Jun;15(6):816-8.

Kravitz AV, Freeze BS, Parker PR, Kay K, Thwin MT, Deisseroth K, Kreitzer AC.  Regulation of parkinsonian motor behaviours by optogenetic control of basal ganglia circuitry. Nature. 2010 Jul 29;466(7306):622-6.

Last Updated: 3/24/2021 4:26:27 PM

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