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Mary Kay Lobo, PhD

Academic Title:

Associate Professor

Primary Appointment:

Anatomy and Neurobiology

Secondary Appointment(s):



HSF II, S265

Phone (Primary):

(410) 706-8824

Education and Training

  • 1998 B.S., Biology and Minor in AnthropologyUniversity of California Los Angeles

  • 2007 Ph.D.,  Neuroscience, University of California Los Angeles- Thesis Advisor- X. William Yang, M.D, Ph.D., “Genetic Analyses of Striatal Projection Neuron Subtypes in the Direct and Indirect Pathways”

  • 2007-2008  Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory of Molecular Psychiatry, Advisor- Eric J. Nestler, M.D., Ph.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

  • 2008-2011   Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory of Molecular Psychiatry, Advisor- Eric J. Nestler, M.D., Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai


I obtained my PhD in Neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles under the mentorship of Dr. X. William Yang. My PhD work involved pioneering a new methodology to isolate the two main striatal projection neuron subtypes for gene expression profiling and uncovered many new genes enriched in these two neuron subtypes. My Postdoctoral studies were performed in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Nestler at University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, TX and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY. I built upon my scientific foundations in striatal circuit genetics and function to continue studying these circuits in drug addiction. My work demonstrated divergent roles in the two ventral striatal (nucleus accumbens- NAc) projection neurons in the rewarding effects of cocaine and morphine. I joined the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University School of Medicine in 2011. My lab continues to study the two striatal projection neuron subtypes, as well as their downstream brain target regions, in psychiatric disease including drug abuse, mood disorders and stereotypy disorders. 

Research/Clinical Keywords

Addiction, depression, stereotypy, striatum, nucleus accumbens, neuron subtypes, circuits, gene expression, transcription, epigenetics

Highlighted Publications

  1. Francis TC and Lobo MK. (2016) Emerging role for nucleus accumbens medium spiny neuron subtypes in depression. Biological Psychiatry. Epub September 2016
  2. Chandra R, Francis TC, Konkalmatt P, Amgalan A, Gancarz AM, Dietz DM, Lobo MK. (2015) Opposing role for Egr3 in nucleus accumbens cell subtypes in cocaine action. J Neurosci. 35:7927-37 
  3. Francis TC, Chandra R, Friend DM, Finkel E, Dayrit G, Miranda J, Brooks JM, Iñiguez S, O’Donnell P, Kravitz A, Lobo MK. (2015) Nucleus accumbens medium spiny neuron subtypes mediate depression-related outcomes to social defeat stress. Biological Psychiatry. 77:212-22
  4. ChandraR, Lenz JD, Gancarz AM, Chaudhury D, Schroeder GL, Han, M-H, Cheer JF, Dietz DM, Lobo MK*. Optogenetic inhibition of D1R containing nucleus accumbens neurons alters cocaine- mediated regulation of Tiam1. Frontiers in Molecular Neurosci. 6:13 
  5. Lobo MK, Covington III HE, Chaudhury D, Friedman A.K., Sun H, Damez-Werno D, Dietz DM, Zaman S, Koo JW, Kennedy PJ, Mouzon E, Mogri M, Neve RL, Deisseroth K, Han M-H, Nestler EJ. (2010) Cell-type specific loss of BDNF signaling mimics optogenetic control of cocaine reward. Science. 330: 385-390

Additional Publication Citations

  1. Papachatzaki MM, Gaspari S, Koo JW, Tsimpanouli ME, Stergiou E, Bagot RC, Ferguson D, MouzonE, ChacravartyS, DeisserothK, Lobo MK, Zachariou V. (2014) Nucleus Accumbens specific interventions in RGS9-2 activity modulate responses to morphine. Neuropsychopharm. 39: 1968-1977 
  2. Koo JW, Lobo MK, Chaudhury D, Labonte B, Friedman A, Heller W, Pena C, Han M-H, Nestler EJ. (2014) Loss of BDNF signaling in D1R expressing NAc neurons enhances morphine reward by reducing GABA inhibition. Neuropsychopharm. 39:2646-53
  3. Volman S, Lammel S, Margolis EB, Kim Y, Richard JM, Roitman MF, Lobo MK. (2013) New Insights into the Specificity and Plasticity of Reward and Aversion Encoding in the Mesolimbic System. J Neurosci. 33:17569-76 
  4. Lobo MK, Zaman S, Damez-Werno D, Koo JW, Bagot R, DiNieri J, Nugent A, Finkel E, Chaudhury D, Chandra R, Riberio E, Rabkin J, Mouzon E, Cachope R, Cheer J, Han M-H, Dietz DM, Self D, Hurd Y, Vialou V, Nestler EJ (2013).  DFosB Induction in Striatal Medium Spiny Neuron Subtypes in Response to Chronic Pharmacological, Emotional, and Optogenetic Stimuli. J Neurosci. 33:18381-95
  5. Thanos PK, Robinson L, Nestler EJ, Kim R, Michaelides M, Lobo MK, Volkow ND. Mapping brain metabolic connectivity in awake rats with MicroPET and Optogenetic Stimulation. (2013) J Neurosci. 33:6343-9
  6. Smith RJ, Lobo MK, Spencer S, Kalivas P. (2013) Cocaine-induced adaptations in D1 and D2 accumbens projection neurons (a dichotomy not necessarily synonymous with direct and indirect pathways). Curr Opin Neurobiol. 23:546-553 
  7. Lenz JL and Lobo MK. (2013) Optogenetic insights into striatal function and behavior. Behavioural Brain Research. 255:44-54

Research Interests

For details on our lab's research please visit: www.

Awards and Affiliations

2006                UCLA Dr. Eva Mary Kavan Prize for excellence in research on the brain

2010                2010 NARSAD Young Investigator Award

2011                2011 Blavatnik Award for Young Scientist Finalist Honoree

2011                American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Travel Awardee

2014-present    Associate Editor, The Journal of Neuroscience

2016                IMHRO/ Janssen Rising Star Translational Research Awardee

2016                American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Associate Member

2016                Editorial Advisory Board, ACS Chemical Neuroscience

Grants and Contracts

NIH/NIDA R01 DA 038613 (Role: PI)- “Cell subtype transcriptional mechanisms in cocaine addiction”

NIH/NIMH R01 MH 106500 (Role: PI)- “The neurocircuitry of depression: Molecular and cell subtype mechanisms”

US-Israel Binational Science Foundation (Role: Co-PI)- “Deciphering the genetics and physiology of the ventral pallidum”

National Science Foundation (Role: Co-PI)- “Focused Electrical Stimulator for Targeted Neuromodulation”

IMHRO /Janssen Rising Star Translational Research Award (Role: PI)- “Stabilizing neuronal architecture for depression therapeutics”





Lab Techniques and Equipment

  • Neuronal subtype gene expression using RiboTag

  • Chromatin immunoprecipitation

  • Neuronal subtype mitochondrial imaging and analysis

  • Neuronal dendritic morphology analysis

  • Neuronal subtype genetic targeting using adeno-associated viruses or herpes simplex virus

  • In vivo calcium imaging unsing miniaturized fluorescent microscopes

  • Optogenetics and chemogenetics

  • Animal behavior- drug self administration, conditioned place preference, social defeat stress, anxiety and mood disorder paradigms, stereotypy behavior