Kenny Lab

Laboratory of Neurobiological Mechanisms of Drug Addiction, Obesity and Schizophrenia

Research

paul-headshot-compressed1-150x150The Kenny Laboratory is focused on understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of drug addiction, obesity and schizophrenia, with an emphasis on the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in these processes. They employ a multidisciplinary approach that includes complex behavioral paradigms, physiological analyses and molecular biological techniques. Current projects include the utilization of vector-based delivery systems to modify gene expression in the brains of rodents to identify novel signaling cascades that may play a role in addiction-like behaviors.

Our research is focused on understanding the molecular neurobiology of drug addiction and obesity, with an emphasis on developing novel therapeutics for these disorders.  We take a multidisciplinary approach that includes mouse behavioral genetics, viral-mediated gene transfer, protein and RNA biology, and we combine these techniques with complex behavioral procedures to better understand the mechanics of addiction and obesity. Current projects include understanding the role of noncoding RNAs and other epigenetic machineries in addiction, identifying the nicotinic receptor subunits that regulate tobacco dependence, investigating the role of brain reward pathways in obesity, and developing small molecule therapeutics for addiction.

Contact Us

Kenny Lab
Paul J Kenny
Director, Experimental Therapeautics Institute
Professor & Chair, Neuroscience
Location
Lab: HESS 10-202
Office: HESS 9-116
Phone
Lab: 212.824.9189
Office: 212.824.8970
Email

Publications

2015

cell-metabolism-oct-2015-115x150Running Cell Metabolism Oct 2015on Empty: Leptin Signaling in VTA Regulates Reward from Physical Activity.
Chen Z, Kenny PJ.
Cell Metabolism. 2015 Oct 6; 22(4):540-1.doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2015.09.021.


brain-research-publication-coverCorticostriatal microRNAs in addiction.
Heyer MP, Kenny PJ.
Brain Research. 2015 Aug 4. pii: S0006-8993(15)00592-2. [Epub ahead of print] Review.


journal-of-biological-chemistry-2015-mayAn Accessory Agonist Binding Site Promotes Activation of α4β2* Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors.
Wang J, Kuryatov A, Sriram A, Jin Z, Kamenecka TM, Kenny PJ, Lindstrom J.
The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2015 May 29;290(22):13907-18.


neuron-2015-mayUsing opioid receptors to expand the chemogenetic and optogenetic toolbox.
Damez-Werno DM, Kenny PJ.
Neuron. 2015 May 20;86(4):853-5.


nature-2015-aprilNeuroscience: Binge drinking and brain stress systems.
O’Connor RM, Kenny PJ.
Nature, 2015 Apr 9;520(7546):168-9

2014

neuron-cover-e1419446779654MicroRNA-mediated repression combats depression.
Heyer MP, Kenny PJ.
Neuron 2014 Jul; 83(2).


nature-neuroscience-2014-octoberPromoting FOS to an enhanced position.
Jonkman S, Kenny PJ.
Nature Neuroscience 2014 Oct; 17(10):1291-3

2013

cover-scientific-american-e1419446882784The food addiction.
Kenny PJ.
Scientific American 2013 Sep; 309(3).


cover-opinion-in-nuerobiology-e1419447023585Dopamine D2 receptors and striatopallidal transmission in addiction and obesity.
Kenny PJ, Voren G, Johnson PM.
Current Opinion in Neurobiology 2013 Aug; 23(4).


fontiers-geneticsMicroRNAs and Drug Addiction.
Bali P, Kenny PJ.
Frontiers in Genetics 2013 May; 4(43).


cover-nature-medicine-february-20132-e1419446622545Exploring the epigenetics of cocaine resistance.
Hope BT, Skinner MK, Kenny PJ, Akbarian S.
Nature Medicine 2013 Feb; 19(2).


Molecular, cellular, and structural mechanisms of cocaine addiction: a key role for microRNAs.
Jonkman S, Kenny PJ.
Neuropsychopharmacology, 2013 Jan;38(1):198-211

2012

cover-journal-of-neuroscience-aug-2012-e1419446499187Normal midbrain dopaminergic neuron development and function in miR-133b mutant mice.
Heyer MP, Pani AK, Smeyne RJ, Kenny PJ, Feng G.
Journal of Neuroscience 2012 Aug; 32(32).


cover-bioorganic-medicinal-chemistry-letters-jun-2012-e1419447268247Disubstituted piperidines as potent orexin (hypocretin) receptor antagonists.
Jiang R, Song X, Bali P, Smith A, Bayona CR, Lin L, Cameron MD, McDonald PH, Kenny PJ, Kamenecka TM.
Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters 2012 Jun; 22(12).


cover-trends-in-neurosciences-may-2012MicroRNAs in neuronal function and dysfunction.
Im HI, Kenny PJ.
Trends in Neurosciences 2012 May; 35(5).

2011

epigentics-cover-compressed-e1421095372181Methylation, memory and addiction.
Bali P, Im HI, Kenny PJ.
Epigenetics 2011 Jun; 6(6).


cover_nature-mar-2011a2Habenular α5 nicotinic receptor subunit signalling controls nicotine intake.
Fowler CD, Lu Q, Johnson PM, Marks MJ, Kenny PJ.
Nature 2011 Mar; 471(7340).


cover-neuron-feb-2011Reward mechanisms in obesity: new insights and future directions.
Kenny PJ.
Neuron 2011 Feb; 69(4).

2010

cover-nature-neuroscience-september-2010MeCP2 controls BDNF expression and cocaine intake through homeostatic interactions with microRNA-212.
Im HI, Hollander JA, Bali P, Kenny PJ.
Nature Neuroscience 2010 Sep; 13(9).


cover_nature-july-2010-120x150Striatal microRNA controls cocaine intake through CREB signalling.
Hollander JA, Im HI, Amelio AL, Kocerha J, Bali P, Lu Q, Willoughby D, Wahlestedt C, Conkright MD, Kenny PJ.
Nature 2010 Jul; 466(7303).


cover-nature-neuroscience-may-2010Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats.
Johnson PM, Kenny PJ.
Nature Neuroscience 2010 May; 13(5).

Recognitions

Richard O’Connor is the recipient of the 2016 Pfizer, Inc. Postdoctoral Fellowship.  The award presentation ceremony will take place during the Obesity Society’s annual scientific meeting in New Orleans, LA in November.  The fellowship will focus on “Central Control of Obesity, with an emphasis on mechanistic studies to deepen our basic understanding of the homeostatic and reward neurocircuitries underlying food intake” (August 2016).


Diane Damez-werno and Richard O’Connor receive Mentor Recognition from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s Center for Excellence in Youth Education for the Lloyd Sherman Scholars Program (August 2016).

Molly Heyer and Alex Smith presented at the 2015 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Annual Meeting in Hollywood, Fl.


Alex Duncan, Molly Heyer, Sietse Jonkman, Alex Smith, and George Voren presented posters at the 2015 Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Conference in Chicago, Il.


Ryan Hakim, NIDA Summer Intern, was selected to present his summer research internship project in the Kenny Lab to the NIDA staff in Bethesda, MD (September 2015).


Paul Kenny received the Tom Connor Distinguished Investigator Award at the 9th Neuroscience Ireland Conference on Frontiers in Neuroscience: Diseases and Treatments (September 2015).


Paul Kenny was an invited Mars Keynote Speaker for the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB) annual conference (July 2015).


Paul Kenny was a speaker and session chair at the Janelia Conference on Motivational Circuits in Natural and Learned Behaviors (March 2015).


Paul Kenny was the distinguished guest speaker at the third annual Waggoner Center for Alcohol/Addiction Research Conference at the University of Texas at Austin (March 2015).


Paul Kenny was elected a Fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP).


Paul Kenny was elected as Member of the Advisory Council for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Paul Kenny was a presenter during the NIDA Mini Convention (November 2015) and presented his talk on Circulating microRNAs as Addiction Biomarkers during the Extracellular RNAs in Neuroscience: Biology, Biomarkers and Therapeutics session.


Paul Kenny was an invited speaker at the Nebraska Research and Innovation Neuroscience Conference (September 2014) . His talk was on Mechanisms Underlying Motivational Properties of Nicotine.


Paul Kenny was an Invited Speaker at the Molecular Basis of Addiction: Synaptic Modification (with Marc Caron, and David Sulzer), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology ASBMB), San Diego (April 2014). His talk was on Molecular Basis of Addiction: Synaptic Modification.


Paul Kenny gave a Basic Science Theme Lecture (February 2014) on New Insights into the Mechanisms of Compulsive Nicotine Intake during the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) Conference in Seattle, Washington.

Paul Kenny received the Mathilde Solowey Lecture Award in the Neurosciences Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences, hosted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH).
Paul Kenny received the Jacob P. Waletzky Memorial Award for Innovative Research in Drug Addiction and Alcoholism from the Society for Neuroscience.

Meet the Team

Molly Heyer, PhD

Molly Heyer, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Molly.Heyer@mssm.edu

Alexander Duncan

Alexander Duncan

PhD Student

Alexander.Duncan@mssm.edu

Ashley Lepack

Ashley Lepack

PhD Student

Ashley.Lepack@mssm.edu

Masago Ishikawa, PhD

Masago Ishikawa, PhD

Assistant Professor

Masago.Ishikawa@mssm.edu

Richard O’Connor, PhD

Richard O’Connor, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Richard.OConnor@mssm.edu

George Voren

George Voren

PhD Student

George.Voren@mssm.edu

Zuxin Chen, PhD

Zuxin Chen, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Zuxin.Chen@mssm.edu

Alexander Smith, PhD

Alexander Smith, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Alexander.Smith@mssm.edu

Purva Bali, M.Sc.

Purva Bali, M.Sc.

PhD Student

Purva.Bali@mssm.edu

Diane Damez Werno, PhD

Diane Damez Werno, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Diane.Damez-werno@mssm.edu

Nora McLaughlin

Nora McLaughlin

Executive Assistant

Nora.McLaughlin@mssm.edu

Kavya Devarakonda

Kavya Devarakonda

PhD Student

Kavya.Devarakonda@icahn.mssm.edu