Headshot photo of Robert J. Hitzemann, Ph.D.

Robert J. Hitzemann, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience, School of Medicine


Previous Positions
Assistant Professor, University of California-San Francisco
Assistant/Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati
Associate Professor/Professor, SUNY at Stony Brook
Chair, Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Oregon Health & Science University

Research Interests
The goal of our research is to understand how genes regulate complex behaviors, particularly complex drug-induced behaviors. The behaviors of interest include the stimulant response to ethanol, haloperidol-induced catalepsy, exploratory behavior, acoustic startle and prepulse inhibition. The genetic dimensions of these behaviors can be studied in laboratory animals (generally mice) using classical genetic techniques such as selective breeding and recombinant inbred strategies. Molecular genetic strategies can then be used to map the relevant gene loci and eventually isolate the relevant genes. Recent studies have shown that a single base pair substitution in Cas1is associated with marked differences in ethanol response. Cas1 is the gene that codes for catalase, an enzyme responsible, in part, for brain ethanol metabolism.

For each of the behaviors studied in the laboratory, the basal ganglia and the limbic system exert an important regulatory role. A secondary goal of our research is to investigate how genetic factors affect the functional organization of these structures. There is a particular interest in the regulation of neurotransmitter receptor and transporter density and the pattern of neuropeptide connections within the brain. Immunocytochemical techniques are also used to map the brain regions activated (and inhibited) by various behavioral paradigms and drug treatments.

Education and training

    • B.S., 1967, Albion College
    • M.S., 1970, Wayne State University
    • Ph.D., 1975, University of California San Francisco

Areas of interest

  • Behavioral genetics
  • Drug abuse
  • Neuroimaging
  • Psychopharmacology



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