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Barbara Juarez, PhD

Academic Title:

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:



685 W. Baltimore Street

Phone (Primary):

(410) 706-4108


Dr. Juarez believes that by understanding the circuit and molecular mechanisms that underlie individual resilience or susceptibility to substance use disorders, novel treatments to disorders  will be discovered. She began her scientific training as an undergraduate at Florida International University in the Minority Biomedical Research Support- Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (MBRS-RISE) program and as a Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) fellow at Boston University. In these programs, she contributed to investigations that sought to determine how circulating hormones in female mice contributed to differences in learning, memory and mating behaviors. She began a post-baccalaureate fellowship in Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) in August 2010 where she joined Dr. Ming-Hu Han’s laboratory. Then as a graduate student at Mount Sinai, she received an NIAAA funded F31 NRSA-Diversity recipient and determined how midbrain dopamine neurons mediate individual differences in alcohol drinking behaviors.

Dr. Juarez  completed her Ph.D training in December 2016 and joined the laboratories of Drs. Larry Zweifel and Charles Chavkin at University of Washington in January 2017 to elucidate how potassium channel subunits contribute to the regulation of cellular physiology and associative learning. She learned how to use viral based CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing approaches to meet these goals. She received a MOSAIC K99/R00 from NIDA in September 2021, which is  focused on determining whether  ventral tegmental area (VTA)  dopamine subpopulations uniformly or distinctly regulate opioid associative learning, through the use of high throughout analysis of mouse behavior, CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology, circuit dissecting electrophysiology, and in vivo photometric methods to analyze neural activity.

Dr. Juarez is  now  an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Medicine in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. The Juarez Lab  is focused on understanding how regulators of cellular excitability contribute to healthy and disordered behaviors. Her lab uses combinatorial approaches to accomplish these goals, such as patch-clamp electrophysiology, in vivo monitoring of neural activity, CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, and mouse models of neuropsychiatric disorders. Throughout her research tenure, Dr. Juarez has been committed to the promotion and support of underrepresented individuals in science and to the mentoring of the next generation of scientists. She has  experience in establishing and growing equity, diversity and inclusivity initiatives in academic environments.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Cellular excitability, ion channels, dopamine, substance-use disorder, opioids, stress, neural circuits, CRISPR/Cas9

Highlighted Publications

Temporal scaling of dopamine neuron firing and dopamine release by distinct ion channels shape behavior
Midbrain circuit regulation of individual alcohol drinking behaviors in mice
Dopaminergic dynamics underlying sex-specific cocaine reward
Diversity of Dopaminergic Neural Circuits in Response to Drug Exposure

Research Interests

Our research goal is to understand how regulators of neuron activity contribute to neural circuit function in healthy and disease states. To do this, we combine viral-based, cell-type specific CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technologies with cutting-edge approaches that measure and manipulate neuron activity in mouse models of substance-use disorder and stress. We are especially interested in how ion channels that regulate intrinsic cellular excitability contribute to neural activity across circuits and behavior.

Awards and Affiliations

2022 University of Washington Department of Pharmacology Diversity Impact Award

2022 Grass Research Foundation Achievement Award

2020 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Travel Award

2019 University of Washington’s Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

2019-2021 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry Fellow

2018 Travel Award from the Neuroscience Scholars Program for Society for Neuroscience 

2017-2019 Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroScience (BRAINS)

2016 NIDA Office of Diversity and Health Disparities Diversity Travel Award

2015 Gordon Research Seminar-Catecholamines Travel Award

2015 Research Society on Alcoholism Student Merit Award

2015 Mount Sinai School of Medicine Graduate Student Travel Award

2014 Society for Neuroscience: Neuroscience Scholars Program Associate

2014 Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority (CSURM) Fellowship for the 2014 Alcohol & the Nervous System Gordon Research Conference

Grants and Contracts


R00 Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA R00DA054265) "Dopamine circuit regulation of morphine reinforcement across the opioid exposure cycle"

Brain and Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator Award "Understanding parabrachial control of opioid withdrawal and negative affect"

Cure Addiction Now Young Investigator Award “Discovering ion channel-based treatments for opioid-use disorders”


2022 University of Washington Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (NORC) Pilot and Feasibility ADVANCE Research Awards Program “Determining neurophysiological adaptations in diverse dopamine subpopulations following a high-fat diet”

2021- 2022 K99 Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA K99DA054265, University of Washington)

2020 Pilot Project Grant from the Center of Excellence in the Neuroscience of Addiction, Pain and Emotion at the University of Washington: “Functional dissection of parabrachial nucleus cell-types and projections in opioid withdrawal”

2020 Addictions, Drug and Alcohol Abuse Institute (ADAI) Small Grants Program: “Elucidating the dopaminergic mechanisms of opioid selfadministration in male and female mice” (University of Washington)

2020-2021 NIDA Diversity Supplement (University of Washington)

2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Postdoctoral Enrichment Program Grant: “Establishing the Present pathophysiology of gating charge mutations in neuronal dysfunction and behavioral disruption” (University of Washington)

2017-2020 T32 NIDA DA007278-23 Training in the Molecular Pharmacology of Abused Drugs (University of Washington)

2014-2016 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) for Individual Predoctoral Fellowships to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (1F31AA022862) “Optogenetic dissection of neural circuits underlying alcohol drinking behavior in mice” (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)

Links of Interest