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Jennifer M. Wenzel, PhD

Academic Title:

Post Doc Fellow

Primary Appointment:

Anatomy and Neurobiology


20 Penn Street

Phone (Primary):


Education and Training

  • Arizona State University, BS, Psychology, 2005
  • University of California Santa Barbara, PhD, Neuroscience and Behavior, 2013


Dr. Wenzel is interested in the neurochemical systems underlying positive and negative reinforcement learning and how experiences throughout development (e.g. drug use or stress) shape reinforcement processes.

In 2005, Dr. Wenzel completed her B.S. in Psychology at Arizona State University. At ASU her interest in behavioral neuroscience developed while working as a research assistant in Dr. Janet Neisewander’s Laboratory  on a series of projects investigating the involvement of dopamine signaling in the amygdala in drug- and cue-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking.

Dr. Wenzel received her PhD in Neuroscience and Behavior from the University of California Santa Barbara, where she worked in Dr. Aaron Ettenberg's laboratory. Her graduate work focused on the neurobiology underlying the opponent processes of cocaine. More specifically, she found that norepinephrine signaling in the extended amygdala is integral to the experience of the negative/anxiogenic, but not the positive/euphoric, effects of acute cocaine administration.

In the summer of 2013, Dr. Wenzel joined the laboratory of Dr. Joseph Cheer as a postdoctoral scholar. Her research here at UMB explores a number of topics, including; the role of dopamine and endocannabinoids in active avoidance, how corticostriatal and endocannabinoid signaling influences impulsive choice, and the effects of adolescent cannabinoid exposure on cocaine reward and reinforcement.

Research/Clinical Keywords

behavioral neuroscience, drugs of abuse, addiction, reward, reinforcement, avoidance, dopamine, adolescence, development, endocannabinoids

Highlighted Publications

Wenzel JM, Oleson EB, Gove WN, Cole AB, Gyawali U, Dantrassy HM, Bluett RJ, Dryanovski DI, Stuber GD, Deisseroth K, et al. (2018). Phasic Dopamine Signals in the Nucleus Accumbens that Cause Active Avoidance Require Endocannabinoid Mobilization in the Midbrain. Current Biology, 28(9):1392-1404.

Wenzel JM, Cheer JF (2018). Endocannabinoid regulation of reward and reinforcement through interaction with dopamine and endogenous opioid signaling. Neuropsychopharmacology, 43(1): 103-115.

Wenzel JM,Rauscher NA, Cheer JF, Oleson EB (2015). A role for phasic dopamine release within the nucleus accumbens in encoding aversion: A review of the neurochemical literature. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 6(1): 16-26.

Ettenberg A, Cotten SW, Brito MA, Klein AK, Ohana TA, Margolin B, Wei A, Wenzel JM (2015). CRF antagonism within the ventral tegmental area but not the extended amygdala attenuates the anxiogenic effects of cocaine in rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 138:148-55.

Ettenberg A, Fomenko V, Kaganovsky K, Shelton K, Wenzel JM (2015). On the positive and negative responses to cocaine and their relation to drug self-administration in rats. Psychopharmacology, 232(13): 2363-75.

Wenzel JM,Cheer JF (2014). Endocannabinoid-dependent modulation of phasic dopamine signaling encodes external and internal reward-predictive cues. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 1(5): 118.

Wenzel JM, Cotton, SC, Dominguez HM, Lane JE, Shelton, K, Su Z-I, Ettenberg A (2013). Noradrenergic β-receptor antagonism within the central nucleus of the amygdala or bed nucleus of the stria terminalis attenuates the negative/anxiogenic effects of cocaine. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(10): 3467-74.

Wenzel JM, Su Z-I, Shelton K, Dominguez HM, von Furstenberg VA, Ettenberg A (2013). The dopamine antagonist cis-flupenthixol blocks the expression of the conditioned positive but not the negative effects of cocaine in rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 114-115; 90-96.

Wenzel JM, Waldroup SA, Haber ZM, Su Z-I, Ben-Shahar O, Ettenberg A (2011). Effects of lidocaine-induced inactivation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, the central or the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala on the opponent-process actions of self-administered cocaine in rats. Psychopharmacology, 217(2):221-30.

Research Interests

The neurobiology of motivated behaviors

  • What brain systems mediate approach and avoidance?
  • How do prior experiences (e.g. adolescent drug exposure, social isolation) shape reinforcement learning and underlying neural circuitry?
  • How are traits linked to motivation, like impulsivity, represented in the brain?

Awards and Affiliations

  • Gordon Research Conference Travel Award (2017)
  • Dopamine Conference Travel Award (2016)
  • The Society for Neuroscience Post-Doctoral Chapter Travel Award (2014)
  • The Journal of Neuroscience, featured article (2014)
  • Harry J. Carlisle Award (2012) for outstanding graduate work in Neuroscience & Behavior
  • Doctoral Student Travel Grant (2011)
  • Professional Development Grant (2009, 2011, 2012)

Grants and Contracts

F32 Postdoctoral National Research Service Award (2016-2018)

National Institute on Drug Abuse

T32 Training Grant in Cellular and Integrative Neuroscience (2014-2015)

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Dissertation Fellowship (2012)

University of California Santa Barbara Graduate Division

Undergraduate Research Fellowship (2005)

Arizona State University School of Life Sciences

Lab Techniques and Equipment

  • Rodent behavioral models
  • IV drug self-administration in rats and mice
  • Behavioral pharmacology
  • Fast scan cyclic voltamtery (FSCV)
  • Fiber Photometry