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Principal Investigator

Photo of Charles Gerfen

Charles R Gerfen, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator


Dr. Gerfen received a B.A. from Amherst College and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. His doctoral research was on neural substrates of reward involving the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia. During a post-doctoral fellowship in the Laboratory of Max Cowan at the Salk Institute, he developed the PHA-L axonal tracing technique with Paul Sawchenko. In 1983, Dr. Gerfen was recruited by Ed Evarts to the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at NIMH to work on the neuroanatomy of the forebrain, where he established some of the functional principles of the organization of the basal ganglia.

Research Interests

Dr. Gerfen studies the functional organization of the cerebral cortex and basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are involved in transforming activity in the cerebral cortex into directed behavior. Using neuroanatomical tracing techniques, he mapped the connections of the circuits of this system, characterizing the compartmental nature of the input-output organization of the striatum, which is the main nucleus of the basal ganglia. His work established that the D1 and D2 dopamine receptors are segregated into two main pathways within the basal ganglia circuits.  This finding forms a cornerstone of the predominant model of neurologic disorders affected by diseases of the basal ganglia, including movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, chorea, and dystonia, and mental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression. Current work is focused on development of BAC-Cre transgenic mouse lines to study the functional organization of the cerebral cortex and basal ganglia.  Dr. Gerfen is a Co-Investigator on the Gene Expression Nervous System Atlas (GENSAT) project, with Nat Heintz at Rockefeller University. This project provides transgenic mouse lines to the neuroscience research community with neuron specific expression of Cre recombinase. Over 200 Cre-driver lines have been characterized with expression limited to specific neuron types or specific brain regions. Characterization of these lines is provided on the lab website:

Selected Publications

Modulation of striatal projection systems by dopamine. Gerfen CR, Surmeier DJ. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2011;34:441-66. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-061010-113641. PMID: 21469956.

Priming for l-dopa-induced dyskinesia in Parkinson`s disease: a feature inherent to the treatment or the disease?. Nadjar A, Gerfen CR, Bezard E. Prog Neurobiol. 2009 Jan 12;87(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2008.09.013. Epub 2008 Sep 30. PMID: 18938208.

Differences between dorsal and ventral striatum in Drd1a dopamine receptor coupling of dopamine- and cAMP-regulated phosphoprotein-32 to activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase. Gerfen CR, Paletzki R, Worley P. J Neurosci. 2008 Jul 9;28(28):7113-20. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3952-07.2008. PMID: 18614680.

Targeting Cre recombinase to specific neuron populations with bacterial artificial chromosome constructs. Gong S, Doughty M, Harbaugh CR, Cummins A, Hatten ME, Heintz N, Gerfen CR. J Neurosci. 2007 Sep 12;27(37):9817-23. PMID: 17855595.

D1 dopamine receptor supersensitivity in the dopamine-depleted striatum results from a switch in the regulation of ERK1/2/MAP kinase. Gerfen CR, Miyachi S, Paletzki R, Brown P. J Neurosci. 2002 Jun 15;22(12):5042-54. PMID: 12077200.

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