David Weinshenker, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Human Genetics

Director, Neuroscience Graduate Program

Scientific Director, Rodent Behavioral Core

Office: 367

Lab: 365

Phone: 404-727-3106

Email: dweinshenker@genetics.emory.edu

Additional Contact Information

Mailing Address:

Department of Human Genetics, Emory University School of Medicine

615 Michael St.
Whitehead 301

Atlanta, GA 30322

Additional Websites

Research Interests

My approach is to use a combination of genetics, behavior, pharmacology, neurochemistry, optogenetics, and chemogenetics in rodents to better understand the neurobiology underlying normal brain function as well as neurological and neuropsychiatric disease. Most projects in the lab focus on the catecholamine neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine.

Norepinephrine (NE) is one of the most abundant neurotransmitters in the central and peripheral nervous systems, and has been implicated in many aspects of physiology and behavior. Although NE was the originally characterized in the peripheral nervous system and has profound effects on almost all aspects of the sympathetic nervous system, we are primarily interested in the contribution of NE to central nervous system function. Most noradrenergic neurons in the brain originate in the brainstem in a region called the locus coeruleus (LC). These neurons project to almost every region of the brain; in fact, it is nearly impossible to find a brain structure that completely lacks noradrenergic input. The brain noradrenergic system is critical for arousal, attention, stress responses, and certain aspects of learning and memory.

Dopamine (DA) is best known for its role in Parkinson’s disease and drug addiction. It has been implicated in many important cognitive processes, including motivation, reward/reinforcement, and volitional movement. In addition to being a neurotransmitter in its own right, DA is actually a biosynthetic precursor for NE; thus, all noradrenergic neurons synthesize both catecholamines. NE and DA interact in many other ways. For example, NE and DA neurons project to and modulate many of the same brain regions, the NE and DA plasma membrane transporters (NET and DAT) display promiscuous uptake of the other transmitter, and there is some crossover in receptor affinity. NE-DA interactions, particularly in drug addiction and Parkinson’s disease, are a major focus of our research.

Education

  • BA, Psychobiology, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1987-1992
  • PhD, Genetics, University of Washington, James H. Thomas, Advisor,
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Washington. Richard D. Palmiter, Advisor,

Publications