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Tara A. LeGates, PhD

Academic Title:

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:

University of Maryland Baltimore County

Secondary Appointment(s):


Education and Training

2003-2007     Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ
B.S., Behavioral Neuroscience, Summa Cum Laude

2007-2013     Johns Hopkins University, Program in Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology and Biophysics, Baltimore, MD
Ph.D., Biology         

2013-2017     University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Physiology
Postdoctoral Fellowship 


The brain continuously processes a diverse array of information, and plasticity of and interactions between specific neuronal circuits are critical regulators of physiology and behavior. This allows organisms to respond to stimuli or changes in the environment and is essential for regulating physiology and behavior. Our goal is to understand how plasticity within neuronal circuits modulates complex behaviors. To tackle this broad goal, we focus on reward related behaviors given their evolutionary importance for survival and the prevalence of symptoms associated with reward in psychiatric disorders. We aim to understand how plasticity of and interactions between specific neuronal circuits integrate information to properly regulate reward related behaviors and how alterations may contribute to psychiatric disorders. Our research program employs a multilevel strategy, from synapses to behavior, combining electrophysiology, imaging, and behavior in mice to understand the neuronal circuit mechanisms responsible for integrating information to regulate behavior.

Research/Clinical Keywords

reward, learning, depression, neuronal circuits, circadian

Highlighted Publications

LeGates, T.A. The reward integrator. Science. 370: 46. PMID: 33004507.

LeGates, T.A., Kvarta, M.D., Tooley, J.R., Francis, T.C., Lobo, M.K., Creed, M.C., and Thompson, S.M., Reward behavior is regulated by the strength of hippocampus-nucleus accumbens synapses. Nature. 564: 258-262, 2018. PMID:30478293.  PMCID: PMC6292781

LeGates, T.A., Fernandez, D.C., Hattar, S. Light as a central modulator of circadian rhythms, sleep and affect. Nat Rev Neurosci. 15: 443-454, 2014. PMID: 24917305.  PMCID: PMC4254760

LeGates, T.A.*, Altimus, C.A.*, Wang, H, Lee, H-K, Yang, S, Kirkwood, A, Zhao, H, Weber, E.T., Hattar, S. Aberrant light exposure impairs learning and mood predominantly through melanopsin cells. Nature 491: 594-598, 2012. PMID: 23151476.  PMCID: PMC3549331