Julia Lemos, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience

Julia Lemos

Contact Info


Office Phone 612-301-2540

Lab Address:
3-430 MTRF

PhD, Neurobiology & Behavior, University of Washington, 2012

BA, Biological Basis of Behavior, University of Pennsylvania, 2004


Julia Lemos is an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and member of the University’s Medical Discovery Team on Addiction. Her laboratory investigates how stress is processed and encoded in the brain. In particular, they interested in understanding how stress-associated neuropeptides regulate the function of neural circuits important for motivation and emotion in individuals with different life histories. Her laboratory also works to understand how chronic or traumatic stress renders the brain vulnerable to disease states such as depression, anxiety, and addiction.


Research Summary/Interests

Intuitively we know that stress can influence our decision-making process; this is part of our daily lives. While responding to acute stressors appropriately allows us to make good decisions, chronic or severe stress can lead to bad decision-making. These processes can be observed across many species, from rodents to humans. In humans, this switch in how we make choices following chronic stress can make an individual vulnerable to diseases like addiction or depression. Despite compelling motivations to study the influence of stress on decision-making, the neurobiology of how acute or chronic stress alters decision-making remains largely unexplored. To answer these questions, my laboratory uses a multi-disciplinary approach in which we pair conventional physiological and behavioral techniques with novel transgenic and optogenetic technology in mice. We use the information obtained from our ex vivo experiments to make predictions about the impact of stress and stress-associated on exploration, reward learning and decision-making behavior. Moreover, we can put our ex vivo observations to task by testing the causal relationship between our cellular and circuit findings and behavioral output. We often see how a life history of chronic or severe stress impacts normal functioning to shift behavioral outputs. Using this paradigm, we can then test whether different therapeutic interventions can reverse the impact of chronic stress on exploration and decision-making behaviors. 


Razidlo JA, Fausner SML, Ingebretson AE, Wang LC, Petersen CM, Mirza S, Swank IN, Alvarez VA, Lemos JC. Chronic loss of muscarinic M5 receptor function manifests disparate impairments in exploratory behavior in male and female mice despite common dopamine regulation. J Neurosci. 2022 Jul 26:JN-RM-1424-21. doi: 10.1523

Ingebretson AE, Lemos JC. A spotlight on the elusive striatal cholinergic interneuron. Science, 2021 April 23, 372(6540), 345-346. 

Al-Hasani R, Gowrishankar R, Schmitz GP, Pedersen CE, Marcus DJ, Shirley SE, Hobbs TE, Elerding AJ, Renaud SJ, Jing M, Li Y, Alvarez VA, Lemos JC, Bruchas MR.Ventral tegmental area GABAergic inhibition of cholinergic interneurons in the ventral nucleus accumbens shell promotes reward reinforcement. Nat Neurosci. 2021 Oct;24(10):1414-1428. DOI: 10.1038/s41593-021-00898-2

Ingebretson AE, Lemos JC. A spotlight on the elusive striatal cholinergic interneuron. Science. 2021 Apr 23;372(6540):345-346. doi: 10.1126/science.abi4907.

Steger JS, Land BB, Lemos JC, Chavkin C, Phillips PEM. Insidious transmission of a stress-related neuroadaptation. Front Behav Neurosci. 2020 Oct 5;14:564054. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2020.564054

Adrover MF, Shin JH, Quiroz C, Ferré S, Lemos JC, Alvarez VA. Prefrontal Cortex-Driven Dopamine Signals in the Striatum Show Unique Spatial and Pharmacological Properties. J Neurosci. 2020 Sep 23;40(39):7510-7522. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1327-20.2020.

Steger JS, Land BB, Lemos JC, Chavkin C, Phillips PEM. Insidious Transmission of a Stress-Related Neuroadaptation. Front Behav Neurosci. 2020 Oct 5;14:564054. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2020.564054. 

Lemos JC & Alvarez, VA 2020, ‘The upside of stress: a mechanism for the positive motivational role of corticotropin releasing factor’ Neuropsychopharmcology, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 219-220. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-019-0510-9

Lemos, JC, Shin, JH, Alvarez, VA 2019, ‘Striatal cholinergic interneurons are a novel target of corticotropin releasing factor’ J Neurosci, pp. 0479-19. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0479-19.2019

Dobbs, LK, Lemos, JC & Alvarez, VA 2017, 'Restructuring of basal ganglia circuitry and associated behaviors triggered by low striatal D2 receptor expression: implications for substance use disorders' Genes, Brain and Behavior, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 56-70. https://doi.org/10.1111/gbb.12361

Dobbs, LKK, Kaplan, ARR, Lemos, J, Matsui, A, Rubinstein, M & Alvarez, VAA 2016, 'Dopamine Regulation of Lateral Inhibition between Striatal Neurons Gates the Stimulant Actions of Cocaine' Neuron, vol. 90, no. 5, pp. 1100-1113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2016.04.031

Lemos, JC, Friend, DM, Kaplan, AR, Shin, JH, Rubinstein, M, Kravitz, AV & Alvarez, VA 2016, 'Enhanced GABA Transmission Drives Bradykinesia Following Loss of Dopamine D2 Receptor Signaling' Neuron, vol. 90, no. 4, pp. 824-838. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2016.04.040

Wang, W, Nitulescu, I, Lewis, JS, Lemos, JC, Bamford, IJ, Posielski, NM, Storey, GP, Phillips, PEM & Bamford, NS 2013, 'Overinhibition of corticostriatal activity following prenatal cocaine exposure' Annals of Neurology, vol. 73, no. 3, pp. 355-369. https://doi.org/10.1002/ana.23805

Schindler, AG, Messinger, DI, Smith, JS, Shankar, H, Gustin, RM, Schattauer, SS, Lemos, JC, Chavkin, NW, Hagan, CE, Neumaier, JF & Chavkin, C 2012, 'Stress produces aversion and potentiates cocaine reward by releasing endogenous dynorphins in the ventral striatum to locally stimulate serotonin reuptake' Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 32, no. 49, pp. 17582-17596. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3220-12.2012

Lemos, JC, Wanat, MJ, Smith, JS, Reyes, BAS, Hollon, NG, Van Bockstaele, EJ, Chavkin, C & Phillips, PEM 2012, 'Severe stress switches CRF action in the nucleus accumbens from appetitive to aversive' Nature, vol. 490, no. 7420, pp. 402-406. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11436

Lemos, JC, Roth, CA, Messinger, DI, Gill, HK, Phillips, PEM & Chavkin, C 2012, 'Repeated stress dysregulates ?-opioid receptor signaling in the dorsal raphe through a p38? MAPK-dependent mechanism' Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 32, no. 36, pp. 12325-12336. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2053-12.2012

Calizo, LH, Akanwa, A, Ma, X, Pan, YZ, Lemos, J, Craige, C, Heemstra, LA & Beck, SG 2011, 'Raphe serotonin neurons are not homogenous: Electrophysiological, morphological and neurochemical evidence' Neuropharmacology, vol. 61, no. 3, pp. 524-543. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.04.008