Robert Meisel, PhD

Professor, Department of Neuroscience

Robert Meisel

Contact Info

Office Phone 612-625-6796

Lab Address:
J-128 Diehl / 2-136 JacH


Robert Meisel is a professor in the Department of Neuroscience. A key question addressed by his lab is what makes some people more vulnerable than others to the addictive effects of drugs? One idea he has been testing in an animal model of addiction vulnerability is that the converging neural plasticity of behavioral experience and drug use renders the brain more susceptible to the addictive properties of drugs.


Research Summary/Interests

Natural Experiences and Addiction Vulnerability

Behavioral disorders are often pathological extensions of normal behavioral processes. Just as depression may be an inappropriate expression of feelings of sadness, drug addiction can be thought of as a pathology of motivation. The goal of this laboratory's research is to use female sexual behavior in rodents as a model system to further our understanding of neural mechanisms of motivations, and by extension compare these mechanisms to those mediating abnormal behaviors, such as addiction. One approach that we take is based on the observation that repeated drug use produces changes in the structure and cellular properties of dopaminergic neurons. We have found that similar neural plasticity in dopamine pathways is seen following repeated sexual experience in female hamsters. By comparing neural changes to drugs versus engaging in natural behaviors, we can separate the neural properties of drug addiction that result from exposure to potent, artificial pharmacological agents from the endogenous neural plasticity that underlies activities in everyday life.


Huijgens PT, Snoeren EMS, Meisel RL, Mermelstein PG. Effects of gonadectomy and dihydrotestosterone on neuronal plasticity in motivation and reward related brain regions in the male rat. J Neuroendocrinol. 2021 Jan;33(1):e12918. doi: 10.1111/jne.12918.

Borland JM, Kim E, Swanson SP, Rothwell PE, Mermelstein PG, Meisel RL. Effect of Aggressive Experience in Female Syrian Hamsters on Glutamate Receptor Expression in the Nucleus Accumbens. Front Behav Neurosci. 2020 Nov 23;14:583395. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2020.583395.

Moore, KM, Oelberg, WL, Glass, MR, Johnson, MD, Been, LE & Meisel, RL 2019, 'Glutamate Afferents From the Medial Prefrontal Cortex Mediate Nucleus Accumbens Activation by Female Sexual Behavior', Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, vol. 13, 227.

Been, L, Gibbons, AB & Meisel, RL 2019, 'Towards a neurobiology of female aggression', Neuropharmacology, vol. 156, 107451.

Gross, KS, Moore, KM, Meisel, RL & Mermelstein, PG 2018, 'mGluR5 mediates dihydrotestosterone-induced nucleus accumbens structural plasticity, but not conditioned reward' Frontiers in Neuroscience, vol. 12, no. NOV, 855.

Meitzen, J, Meisel, RL & Mermelstein, PG 2018, 'Sex differences and the effects of estradiol on striatal function' Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, vol. 23, pp. 42-48.

Been, L, Gibbons, AB & Meisel, RL 2018, 'Towards a neurobiology of female aggression' Neuropharmacology.

Moore, KM, Himmler, BT, Teplitzky, BA, Johnson, MD & Meisel, RL 2017, 'Measuring in Vivo changes in extracellular neurotransmitters during naturally rewarding behaviors in female syrian hamsters' Journal of Visualized Experiments, vol. 2017, no. 127, e56135.

Micevych, PE & Meisel, RL 2017, 'Integrating neural circuits controlling female sexual behavior' Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, vol. 11, 42.

Peterson, BM, Martinez, LA, Meisel, RL & Mermelstein, PG 2016, 'Estradiol impacts the endocannabinoid system in female rats to influence behavioral and structural responses to cocaine' Neuropharmacology, vol. 110, pp. 118-124.

Gross, KS, Brandner, DD, Martinez, LA, Olive, MF, Meisel, RL & Mermelstein, PG 2016, 'Opposite effects of mglur1a and mglur5 activation on nucleus accumbens medium spiny neuron dendritic spine density' PloS one, vol. 11, no. 9, e0162755.

Martinez, LA, Gross, KS, Himmler, BT, Emmitt, NL, Peterson, BM, Zlebnik, NE, Foster Olive, M, Carroll, ME, Meisel, RL & Mermelstein, PG 2016, 'Estradiol facilitation of cocaine Self-Administration in female rats requires activation of mglur5' eNeuro, vol. 3, no. 5, e0140-16.2016.



NSC 5462: Neuroscience Principles of Drug Abuse (Spring semester); NSCI 1001: Fundamental Neuroscience (Fall semester).