Steven Graves, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology

Steven Graves

Contact Info

Office Phone 612-624-7335

Office Address:
3-106 Nils Hasselmo Hall
312 Church St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Lab Address:
2-206 Nils Hasselmo Hall
312 Church St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455


Dr. Graves received his B.Sc. degree from the University of Michigan in Biopsychology & Cognitive Sciences and Ph.D. degree from Rush University Medical Center in the Department of Pharmacology. His postdoctoral training was in the laboratory of Dr. D. James Surmeier at Northwestern University in the Department of Physiology. Prior to joining the University of Minnesota in 2018, Dr. Graves was a research assistant professor at Northwestern University in the Department of Physiology.


Slice electrophysiology, stereology, immunohistochemistry, two-photon laser scanning microscopy, and behavioral pharmacology

Awards & Recognition

K99/R00 Pathway to Independence award, NIDA, 2016-2021

Northwestern Memorial Foundation Grant, 2015-20162014

F32 NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Training Grant; NINDS 2013-2015

John E. Trufant, Ed.D. Award for Excellence in Graduate Study, 2012

Director’s Travel Award; National Institue on Drug Abuse, 2011

Julius Axelrod Travel Award; NIDA/NIMH/NINDS, 2010

Director’s Travel Award; National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2009

F31 NIH NRSA Predoctoral Training Grant; NIDA 2009-2011

Professional Associations

Society for Neuroscience (SfN)

American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET)

College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD)

International Society for Serotonin Research (ISSR)


Research Summary/Interests

My lab is focused on studying functional and anatomical adaptations that arise from perturbations in dopaminergic signaling. To gain insights into this broad topic we mainly focus on two disease states; 1) Parkinson’s disease where dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta progressively degenerate resulting in motor dysfunction (i.e. resting tremor, postural instability, bradykinesia, etc.) and 2) drug addiction wherein a drug of abuse such as methamphetamine increases dopamine signaling and when administered repeatedly can result in drug-seeking behavior that persists long after drug-taking has ceased. By studying how the brain adapts in animal models of these diseases, we can identify what changes are pathological and play a causal role in manifesting behavioral symptoms. Once the adaptations are identified we can then move forward with to test how the adaptations influence behavioral outcomes.

Projects in my lab use state-of-the-art techniques including patch clamp electrophysiology in ex vivo brain slices paired with two-photon microscopy, optogenetics, and chemogenetics. These techniques are applied to study intrinsic and synaptic dynamics in disease states that can then be translated to behaving animals. Research efforts are primarily focused on dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta and spiny projection neurons in the striatum.