U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Alexxai Kravitz

 Contact Info

Tel: 301-496-6896
Email: lex.kravitz@nih.gov

 Select Experience

  • PostdocGladstone Institutes of Neurological Disease2009-2013
  • Ph.D.University of Pennsylvania2009
  • B.A.Wesleyan University2001

 Related Links


Alexxai V. Kravitz, Ph.D.

Acting Section Chief, Eating and Addiction SectionDiabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch
  • Neuroscience/Neurophysiology/Neurodevelopment
Research Summary/In Plain Language

Research Summary

Research Goal

The goal of our research is to understand how different diets can change the function of basal ganglia circuits and how these changes contribute to obesity.

Current Research

I am interested in the study of basal ganglia circuits and how their function changes in disease states such as obesity, addiction, and depression.  Under normal conditions, the basal ganglia drives animals toward the selection of specific behavioral outcomes.  Learning can bias this selection process toward specific behavior by altering synapses within and outside the basal ganglia.  In extreme cases, these synaptic alterations can produce pathological behavioral selection, as in obesity or addiction.  Using behavioral testing, optogenetics, and in vivo electrophysiology and optical measurements, the lab characterizes changes in behavior following learning in a feeding context and attempts to understand the neural correlates and causes of these changes in behavior.​

Applying our Research

The circuits we are studying may represent therapeutic targets that can help people change their feeding behavior and ultimately reduce obesity.  Additionally, basic science can help the public learn about the brain changes associated with obesity and understand why it is so difficult for obese individuals to change their behavior.

Need for Further Study

Despite ongoing research, it remains unclear how diets high in fat and calories affect reward circuitry in the brain and how to reverse such changes to combat obesity.