Kenny Lab

Laboratory of Neurobiological Mechanisms of Drug Addiction, Obesity and Schizophrenia


The 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, Drug Discovery Institute
Professor & Chair, Neuroscience
Lab: HESS 10-202
Office: HESS 9-116
Lab: 212.824.9189
Office: 212.824.8970

Grants & Support



Central and peripheral actions of nicotine that influence blood glucose homeostasis and the development of diabetes.

Chen Z, Liu XA, Kenny PJ.Pharmacol Res. 2023 Aug;194:106860. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2023.106860. Epub 2023 Jul 21.PMID: 37482325 

New medications development for smoking cessation.

Lengel D, Kenny PJ.Addict Neurosci. 2023 Sep;7:100103. doi: 10.1016/j.addicn.2023.100103. Epub 2023 May 18.PMID: 37519910 


Hedgehog-interacting protein acts in the habenula to regulate nicotine intake.

Caligiuri SPB, Howe WM, Wills L, Smith ACW, Lei Y, Bali P, Heyer MP, Moen JK, Ables JL, Elayouby KS, Williams M, Fillinger C, Oketokoun Z, Lehmann VE, DiFeliceantonio AG, Johnson PM, Beaumont K, Sebra RP, Ibanez-Tallon I, Kenny PJ. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Nov 15;119(46):e2209870119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2209870119. Epub 2022 Nov 8.PMID: 36346845

Utility of ‘substance use disorder’ as a heuristic for understanding overeating and obesity.

O’Connor RM, Kenny PJ.Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2022 Aug 30;118:110580. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2022.110580. Epub 2022 May 27.PMID: 35636576 Review.

Structure and function differences in the prelimbic cortex to basolateral amygdala circuit mediate trait vulnerability in a novel model of acute social defeat stress in male mice.

Grossman YS, Fillinger C, Manganaro A, Voren G, Waldman R, Zou T, Janssen WG, Kenny PJ, Dumitriu D.Neuropsychopharmacology. 2022 Feb;47(3):788-799. doi: 10.1038/s41386-021-01229-6. Epub 2021 Nov 19.PMID: 34799681

Neurobiological Mechanisms of Nicotine Reward and Aversion.

Wills L, Ables JL, Braunscheidel KM, Caligiuri SPB, Elayouby KS, Fillinger C, Ishikawa M, Moen JK, Kenny PJ. Pharmacol Rev. 2022 Jan;74(1):271-310. doi: 10.1124/pharmrev.121.000299.PMID: 35017179 Review.

Opposing roles for striatonigral and striatopallidal neurons in dorsolateral striatum in consolidating new instrumental actions
Alexander C W SmithSietse Jonkman, Alexandra G DifeliceantonioRichard M O’ConnorSoham GhoshalMichael F Romano Barry J Everitt and Paul J Kenny
Nature Communications. 2021 Aug 25;12(1):5121. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-25460-3.
Mechanisms of Nicotine Addiction.
Marina R Picciotto and Paul J Kenny
Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine. 2021 May 3;11(5):a039610. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a039610.
Addiction-related neuroadaptations following chronic nicotine exposure.
Lauren Wills and Paul J Kenny
Journal of Neurochemistry. 2021 Mar 20. doi: 10.1111
α3* Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors in the Habenula-Interpeduncular Nucleus Circuit Regulate Nicotine Intake
Karim S ElayoubyMasago Ishikawa, Angeline J Dukes, Alexander C W Smith, Qun Lu, Christie D Fowler, Paul J Kenny
Journal of Neuroscience. 2021 Feb 24;41(8):1779-1787. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0127-19.2020. Epub 2020 Dec 30.
Habenular TCF7L2 links nicotine addiction to diabetes: the broad significance.
Stephanie P B Caligiuri and Paul J Kenny
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2021 Jan;46(1):267-268. doi: 10.1038/s41386-020-00859-6.
Hippocampal plasticity may drive cocaine relapse.
Vanessa E Lehman and Paul J Kenny
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.  2020 Dec 1;117(48):30003-30005. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2020202117. Epub 2020
Negative feedback control of neuronal activity by microglia.
Ana BadimonHayley J Strasburger, Pinar Ayata, Xinhong Chen, Aditya Nair, Ako Ikegami, Philip Hwang, Andrew T Chan, Steven M Graves, Joseph O Uweru, Carola Ledderose Munir Gunes Kutlu, Michael A Wheeler, Anat Kahan, Masago IshikawaYing-Chih Wang, Yong-Hwee E Loh, Jean X Jiang, D James Surmeier, Simon C Robson, Wolfgang G Junger, Robert Sebra, Erin S Calipari, Paul J KennyUkpong B Eyo, Marco Colonna, Francisco J Quintana, Hiroaki Wake, Viviana Gradinaru, Anne Schaefer
Nature. 2020 Oct;586(7829):417-423. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2777-8. Epub 2020 Sep 30.
Transcriptional mechanisms of drug addiction
Purva Bali and Paul J Kenny
Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2019 Dec;21(4):379-387. doi: 10.31887/DCNS.2019.21.4/pkenny.  PMID: 31949405
Habenular TCF7L2 links nicotine addiction to diabetes.
Alexander DuncanMary P HeyerMasago IshikawaStephanie P B CaligiuriXin-An LiuZuxin ChenMaria Vittoria Micioni Di BonaventuraKarim S ElayoubyJessica L AblesWilliam M HowePurva BaliClementine FillingerMaya WilliamsRichard M O’ConnorZichen Wang, Qun Lu, Theodore M Kamenecka, Avi Ma’ayan, Heidi C O’Neill, Ines Ibanez-Tallon, Aron M Geurts, Paul J Kenny
Nature. 2019 Oct;574(7778):372-377. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1653-x. Epub 2019 Oct 16.PMID: 31619789
Synaptic Microtubule-Associated Protein EB3 and SRC Phosphorylation Mediate Structural and Behavioral Adaptations During Withdrawal From Cocaine Self-Administration.
Erin S CalipariArthur Godino, Marine Salery, Diane M Damez-WernoMichael E Cahill, Craig T Werner, Amy M Gancarz, Emily G Peck, Zahra Jlayer, Jacqui Rabkin, Joseph A Landry, Alexander C W SmithPaola Defilippi, Paul J KennyYasmin L Hurd, Rachael L Neve, David M Dietz, Eric J Nestler 
Journal of Neuroscience. 2019 Jul 17;39(29):5634-5646. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0024-19.2019. Epub 2019 May 15.
Correction: Food addiction: a valid concept?
Paul C. Fletcher and Paul J. Kenny
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019 Mar;44(4):834. doi: 10.1038/s41386-018-0288-1.
Cocaine-metabolizing skin grafts.
Xin-an Liu and Paul J. Kenny
Nature Biomedical Engineering. 2019 Feb;3(2):81-82. doi: 10.1038/s41551-019-0355-x.



Drug Addiction: Mechanisms of Nicotine Dependence Unmasked by Gene Editing.
Howe WM, Kenny PJ.
Current Biology. 2018 Oct 22;28(20):R1205-R1207. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.09.003.

Endocannabinoid Signaling in the Habenula Regulates Adaptive Responses to Stress.
Chen Z, Kenny PJ.
Biological Psychiatry. 2018 Oct 15;84(8):553-554. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.08.001.

Neuroscience: Brain Mechanisms of Blushing.
Mathis V, Kenny PJ.
Current Biology. 2018 Jul 23;28(14):R791-R792. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.06.047.

From controlled to compulsive drug-taking: The role of the habenula in addiction.
Mathis V, Kenny PJ.
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Review. 2018 Jun 21. pii: S0149-7634(18)30120-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.06.018. [Epub ahead of print] Review.

Melanocortin 4 receptors switch reward to aversion.
DiFeliceantonio AG, Kenny PJ.
Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2018 Jul 2;128(7):2757-2759. doi: 10.1172/JCI121653. Epub 2018 Jun 18.

Animal Models of Addiction and Neuropsychiatric Disorders and Their Role in Drug Discovery: Honoring the Legacy of Athina Markou.
Kenny PJ, Hoyer D, Koob GF.
Biological Psychiatry. 2018 Jun 1;83(11):940-946. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.02.009. Epub 2018 Feb 22. Review.

Neuropeptidomics of the Rat Habenular Nuclei.
Yang N, Anapindi KDB, Rubakhin SS, Wei P, Yu Q, Li L, Kenny PJ, Sweedler JV.
Journal of Proteome Research. 2018 Apr 6;17(4):1463-1473. doi: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.7b00811. Epub 2018 Mar 20.

Burst firing sets the stage for depression.
Howe WM, Kenny PJ.
Nature. 2018 Feb 15;554(7692):304-305. doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-01588-z.

HDAC5 Regulates the Formation of Drug Memories.
Smith ACW, Kenny PJ.
Trends in Molecular Medicine. 2018 Feb;24(2):106-108. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2017.12.011. Epub 2018 Jan 25.

The Promise of Genome Editing for Modeling Psychiatric Disorders.
Caligiuri SP, Kenny PJ.
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018 Jan;43(1):223-224. doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.197.


Retrograde inhibition by a specific subset of interpeduncular α5 nicotinic neurons regulates nicotine preference.
Ables JL, Görlich A, Antolin-Fontes B, Wang C, Lipford SM, Riad MH, Ren J, Hu F, Luo M, Kenny PJ, Heintz N, Ibañez-Tallon I.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A. 2017 Dec 5;114(49):13012-13017. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1717506114. Epub 2017 Nov 20.

Corticostriatal plasticity, neuronal ensembles, and regulation of drug-seeking behavior.
Bobadilla AC, Heinsbroek JA, Gipson CD, Griffin WC, Fowler CD, Kenny PJ, Kalivas PW.
Progress in Brain Research. 2017;235:93-112. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2017.07.013. Epub 2017 Oct 12. Review.

TC299423, a Novel Agonist for Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors.
Wall TR, Henderson BJ, Voren G, Wageman CR, Deshpande P, Cohen BN, Grady SR, Marks MJ, Yohannes D, Kenny PJ, Bencherif M, Lester HA.
Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2017 Sep 26;8:641. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00641. eCollection 2017.

Energy Balance: Lateral Hypothalamus Hoards Food Memories.
Devarakonda K, Kenny PJ.
Current Biology. 2017 Aug 21;27(16):R803-R805. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.06.082.

Gastric bypass surgery stimulates the dormant gut-brain axis in obesity.
Caligiuri SPB, Kenny PJ.
Kidney International. 2017 Jul;92(1):6-8. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2017.05.001.

GLP-1 acts on habenular avoidance circuits to control nicotine intake.
Tuesta LM, Chen Z, Duncan A, Fowler CD, Ishikawa M, Lee BR, Liu XA, Lu Q, Cameron M, Hayes MR, Kamenecka TM, Pletcher M, Kenny PJ.
Nature Neuroscience. 2017 May;20(5):708-716. doi: 10.1038/nn.4540. Epub 2017 Apr 3.

α5 nicotinic receptors link smoking to schizophrenia.
Liu XA, Kenny PJ.
Nature Medicine. 2017 Mar 7;23(3):277-278. doi: 10.1038/nm.4300. No abstract available.

Bariatric Surgery Restores Gut-Brain Signaling to Reduce Fat Intake.
Caligiuri S, Kenny PJ.
Cell Metabolism. 2017 Feb 7;25(2):221-222. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.01.017.


The CHRNA5-A3-B4 Gene Cluster and Smoking: From Discovery to Therapeutics.
Lassi G, Taylor AE, Timpson NJ, Kenny PJ, Mather RJ, Eisen T, Munafò MR.
Trends Neuroscience. 2016 Dec;39(12):851-861. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2016.10.005. Epub 2016 Nov 18. Review.

All Roads Lead to the miRNome: miRNAs Have a Central Role in the Molecular Pathophysiology of Psychiatric Disorders.
O’Connor RM, Gururajan A, Dinan TG, Kenny PJ, Cryan JF.
Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. 2016 Dec;37(12):1029-1044. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2016 Nov 8. Review.

Obituary: Athina Markou PhD (1961-2016).
Cryan JF, Kenny PJ.
Neuropharmacology. 2017 Feb;113(Pt A):591-593. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2016.10.023. Epub 2016 Oct 25. No abstract available.

Crash course in pallidus-habenula signaling.
Ishikawa M, Kenny PJ.
Nature Neuroscience. 2016 Jul 26;19(8):981-3. doi: 10.1038/nn.4349. No abstract available.

Constance E. Lieber, Theodore R. Stanley, and the Enduring Impact of Philanthropy on Psychiatry Research.
Krystal JH, Abi-Dargham A, Akbarian S, Arnsten AFT, Barch DM, Bearden CE, Braff DL, Brown ES, Bullmore ET, Carlezon WA Jr, Carter CS, Cook EH Jr, Daskalakis ZJ, DiLeone RJ, Duman RS, Grace AA, Hariri AR, Harrison PJ, Hiroi N, Kenny PJ, Kleinman JE, Krystal AD, Lewis DA, Lipska BK, Marder SR, Mason GF, Mathalon DH, McClung CA, McDougle CJ, McIntosh AM, McMahon FJ, Mirnics K, Monteggia LM, Narendran R, Nestler EJ, Neumeister A, O’Donovan MC, Öngür D, Pariante CM, Paulus MP, Pearlson G, Phillips ML, Pine DS, Pizzagalli DA, Pletnikov MV, Ragland JD, Rapoport JL, Ressler KJ, Russo SJ, Sanacora G, Sawa A, Schatzberg AF, Shaham Y, Shamay-Tsoory SG, Sklar P, State MW, Stein MB, Strakowski SM, Taylor SF, Turecki G, Turetsky BI, Weissman MM, Zachariou V, Zarate CA Jr, Zubieta JK.
Biological Psychiatry. 2016 Jul 15;80(2):84-86. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.05.004. No abstract available.

Polygenic overlap between schizophrenia risk and antipsychotic response: a genomic medicine approach.
Ruderfer DM, Charney AW, Readhead B, Kidd BA, Kähler AK, Kenny PJ, Keiser MJ, Moran JL, Hultman CM, Scott SA, Sullivan PF, Purcell SM, Dudley JT, Sklar P.
Lancet Psychiatry. 2016 Apr;3(4):350-7. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(15)00553-2. Epub 2016 Feb 23.

2015 & Earlier


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




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




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


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).




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).




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).


Stephanie Caligiuri joins the faculty at William & Mary as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Nutrition Program.

Alberto Corona is selected to receive the 2023 Postdoctoral Diversity Enrichment Program Award from Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Janna Moen joins Yale University School of Medicine as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the lab of Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, with support from Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Miriam Leifer joins the Kenny lab. Miriam received a B.A in Neurobiology with a minor in Chemistry from Yeshiva University (YU) Stern College for Women.

Lauren Wills is promoted to Research Assistant Professor.

Miriam Shin completes a Masters degree in Clinical Research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

JunShi Wang receives the 2023 Cure Addiction Now (CAN) – Young Investigator Award.

Richard O’Connor receives an award from the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research.

Alberto Corona joins the Kenny lab as a Postdoc. Alberto received a PhD in Neuroscience from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory with Dr. Stephen D. Shea as Advisor.

Piya Pillai joins the Kenny lab as an Associate Researcher. Prior to joining, Piya studied in the Cell and Molecular Neuroscience program at Fordham University before transferring as a pre-medical student to Case Western Reserve University

Brian Acosta and Adam Polanco joined the lab as summer students through the Center for Excellence in Youth Education program.

Molly Gargan and Margaret MacGillivray participated as a summer research volunteer in the Kenny lab.

Richard O’Connor is promoted to Research Assistant Professor.

Molly Heyer‘s research images, “Tree of lIfe” is featured in the Art of the Brain Exhibit 2022, curated by Veronica Szarejko.

Dana Lengel transitions from the lab to a position as a Medical Writer.

Kevin Braunscheidel receives an F32 Fellowship from NIH NIDA titled “Nicotine & Nodose: A Neural Basis for Peripheral Control over Nicotine Intake.”

Janna Moen receives an F32 Fellowship from NIH NIDA titled “Mechanisms of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor modulation of cocaine reward.”

Kavya Devarakonda transitions from the lab to a Freelance Academic Science Writer.

Molly Heyer‘s research image “4 Little Brains” was featured as the cover art on the January 2022 issue of Biological Psychiatry

Estefani Aylin Saint-Jour Cubillos joins the lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow after completing her PhD in Neuroscience from the  Institut de Biolgie, Paris Seine, Sorbonne Universites, Paris, France.

Alexander Smith joins the faculty at the Medical University of South Carolina as an Assistant Professor (December 2021).

Molly Heyer‘s research images, “4 little brains” and “I can see clearly” are featured in the Art of the Brain Exhibit, curated by Veronica Szarejko.

Dana Lengel joins the Kenny lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow after completing her PhD in Neuroscience at Drexel University (August 2021).

Soham Ghoshal will be attending Harvard Medical School to pursue an M.D. (August 2021)

Kavya Devarakonda successfully defends her thesis and receives her PhD (July 2021).

Jana Moen is appointed as a postdoctoral fellow on the Nash Family Department of Neuroscience T32 Training Program in Substance Use Disorders.

Kavya Devarakonda will be honored with The Advancement of Women in Science Award. (May 2021).

Soham Ghoshal receives the prestigious Jonas E. Salk Research Scholarship (May 2021)

Paul Kenny is an organizer and speaker at the  Innovators in Neuroscience: From Molecules to Mind, a symposium highlighting recent advances from basic to clinical neuroscience, presented by Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute and Mount Sinai’s Friedman Brain Institute (May 2021)

Janna Moen joins the Kenny lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow after completing her PhD Degree in Neuroscience from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities (February 2021).

Kevin Brauscheidel is elected as a member of the 2021 MSN Seminars Committee (January 2021)

Soham Ghoshal receives an Else Seringhaus Research Award

Alex Smith is a Panel Chair for “Cells & Circuits Contributing to Opioid Use Disorder” at Winter Conference on Brain Research. Big Sky, MT. 

Alex Smith receives a Travel Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP)

Ashley E. Lepack receives the Nemko Prize in Cellular or Molecular Neuroscience from the Society for Neuroscience (October 2020)

Purva Bali is promoted to Senior Scientist in the Nash Family Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (September 2020)

Alex Smith is appointed to Instructor in the Nash Family Department of Neuroscience (August 2020)

Jun-Shi Wang joins the Kenny lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow (August 2020)

Kevin Braunsheidel joins the Kenny lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow (August 2020)

Alex Smith is awarded a K99 grant from NIH NIDA (DA048119) entitled “Discovery of novel pharmacotherapeutic targets for opioid addiction” (August 2020)

Paul J. Kenny receives the 2020 Alton Ochsner Award Relating Smoking and Health (July 2020)

Soham Ghoshal graduated Hunter College as Valedictorian and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society (June 2020)

Stephanie Caligiuri receives a Postdoc Award for the 2020 FBI Annual Retreat (April 2020)

Christie Fowler is promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California, Irvine (March 2020)

Masago Ishikawa is promoted to Associate Professor in the Nash Family Department of Neuroscience (January 2020)

Soham Ghoshal receives a National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Training Reward (IRTA)

Soham Ghoshal receives a Mid-Career Award from Hunter College

Alex Smith receives an Outstanding Mentor Award for his mentorship in the Lloyd Sherman Scholars Program​.

Matt Howe joins the faculty at Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience as an Assistant Professor (December 2019)

Alexandra DiFeliceantonio joins the faculty at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC as an Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Center for Transformative Research on Health Behaviors (December 2019)

Jessica Ables joins the faculty at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience (October 2019).

Molly Heyer is appointed as an Instructor in the Nash Family Department of Neuroscience (July 2019)

Richard O’Connor is appointed as an Instructor in the Nash Family Department of Neuroscience (July 2019)

Alexandra DiFeliceantonio will be presenting at the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB) (July 2019).

Victor Mathis receives the 3rd Annual Alkermes Pathways Research Award (June 2019)

Ashley Lepack presents Poster at Keystone Symposia “Epigenetics and Human Disease” (June 2019).

Jessica Ables receives Best Poster, 2nd Place, Friedman Brain Institute Neuroscience Retreat (May 2019).

Stephanie Caligiuri presents poster on “The importance of progesterone and nicotinic acetylcholine signalling in the interpeduncular nucleus for female specific alcohol dependence” at the Neuroscience Retreat, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NY (May 2019).

Victor Mathis, Stephanie Caligiuri, Clementine Fillinger and Paul Kenny present Poster on “A prefronto-habenular circuit involved in stress-induced reinstatement” at the Friedman Brain Institute Retreat in New York (May 2019).

Stephanie Caligiuri presents talk on “The bitter taste receptor brain chemosensory network as a target in drug addiction” at the Center for Neurotechnology and Behavior Dinner and Talks, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NY (April 2019)

Alex Smith receives a Travel Award for the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society (April 2019).

Alexandra DiFeliceantonio receives a Travel Award from the NIDDK Neuroimaging and Modulation in Obesity and Diabetes 10th Anniversary Meeting (April 2019).

Alex Smith serves as Panel Co-Chair in “The Use of in vivo Imaging Techniques to Link Neural Activity with Behavior” during the Winter Conference on Brain Research (January 2019).

Alex Smith receives a Travel Fellowship from the Winter Conference on Brain Research (January 2019).

Paul Kenny is elected a Member of the Institute Director Leadership Review Committee, National Institutes of Health.

Jessica Ables participates in the Career Development Institute for Psychiatry.

Alexandra DiFeliceantonio receives the Promising Young Investigator Travel Award from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at Mount Sinai.

Jessica Ables is named Laughlin Fellow, American College of Psychiatrists.

Jessica Ables is elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society.

Jessica Ables presents Poster at Society for Biological Psychiatry: “Exploring the role of the Habenula-IPN in Affective States in Diabetes.”

Paul Kenny is elected a Member of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse (NACDA).

Paul Kenny receives the Daniel H. Efron Research Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (December 2018).

Jessica Ables presents poster at ACNP: “Exploring the role of the Habenula-IPN in Affective States in Diabetes” (December 2018).

Richard O’Connor receives a Travel award to attend the 2019 Winter Conference on Brain Research in Snowmass, CO (2018).

Stephanie Caligiuri presents poster on “The α5 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Subunit May Mediate Anxiety and Alcohol Reinforcement through Progesterone Signaling in the Interpeduncular Nucleus in a Sex Specific Manner” at the Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA (November 2018).

Richard O’Connor receives a Rolls-Simons travel award from The Obesity Society to attend Obesity Week 2018 in Nashville, TN (November 2018)

Alexandra DiFeliceantonio presents on “When a calorie is not a calorie: fat and carbohydrate combinations potentiate measures of reinforcement independently of caloric load” at the  Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Annual Meeting (November 2018)

Richard O’Connor receives the Center for Neurotechnology and Behavior at Mount Sinai travel award to attend Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA. (November 2018)

Victor Mathis, Stephanie Caligiuri, Clementine Fillinger and Paul Kenny present their poster on “A prefronto-habenular circuit involved in stress-induced reinstatement” at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), San Diego, CA (November 2018)

Stephanie Caligiuri, Victor Mathis, Maria Vittoria Micioni Bonaventura, and Paul Kenny present their poster on “The α5 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Subunit May Mediate Anxiety and Alcohol Reinforcement through Progesterone Signaling in the Interpeduncular Nucleus in a Sex Specific Manner” at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), San Diego, CA (November 2018).

Alex Smith receives the 2018 Brain and Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Young Investigator Grant in Addiction (October 2018).

Purva Bali successfully defends her thesis and receives her PhD (July 2018).

Jessica Ables is named a Leon Levy Fellow in Neuroscience (April 2018).

Stephanie Caligiuri presents poster on “The α5 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Subunit May Mediate Anxiety and Alcohol Reinforcement through Progesterone Signaling in the Interpeduncular Nucleus in a Sex Specific Manner”  Neuroscience Retreat, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NY (April 2018).

Alex Smith serves as Symposium Chair for “MMP-9 in Psychiatric Disease” during the American Society for Neurochemistry Annual Meeting (March 2018).

Ashley Lepack receives the Best Speaker Prize, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s Annual Neuroscience Retreat (March 2018).

Ashley Lepack receives the Hausfeld Award (recognizing the most outstanding Neuroscience PhD student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai).

Ashley Lepack receives the  National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Research Service Award (NRSA), 2018 – 2020.

Paul Kenny received the MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Paul Kenny is elected a Senior Editor for The Journal of Neuroscience.

Paul Kenny is elected a Member of the National Institutes of Health, Council of Councils.

Jessica Ables receives the NIMH Outstanding Resident (July 2017).

Alex Smith receives the NIDA National Research Service Award (F32 NRSA)

Victor Mathis receives a Postdoctoral fellowship for “L’habénula latérale, une structure impliquée dans l’adaptation comportementale liée au stress?” from the Fondation pour la recherche medical, France.

Victor Mathis receives a Postdoctoral fellowship for the “study of the involvement of the lateral habenula in behavioral adaption in stressful conditions” from the Fondation Fyssen, France.

Stephanie Caligiuri receives the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Post-Doctoral Fellowship (September 2016).

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).

Richard O’Connor receives a Postdoctoral fellowship from The Obesity Society (2016).

Richard O’Connor receives Best poster presented by a Postdoctoral Researcher at the 2016 International Behavioural Neuroscience Society Annual Meeting, Budapest, Hungary (June 2016).

Richard O’Connor receives a Travel award to attend the 2016 International Behavioural Neuroscience Society Annual Meeting in Budapest, Hungary (2016).

Paul Kenny received the NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grant, Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (December 2015).

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

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

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.


Aspen Ideas Festival 2023: A Conversation on Addiction with Dr. Paul Kenny

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Mindful matters: Discussing addiction with Drs. Eric Nestler and Paul Kenny
This 2023 podcast is brought to you by the Science/AAAS Custom Publishing Office.

25 May 2007 — Sprague Dawley Variety of White Laboratory Rat — Image by © Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

Time Magazine
Understanding the mind of a cocaine addict

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Junk food”

Meet the Team

Purva Bali, Ph.D.

Purva Bali, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist

Kevin Braunscheidel, Ph.D.

Kevin Braunscheidel, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Stephanie Caligiuri, Ph.D.

Stephanie Caligiuri, Ph.D.


Alberto Corona, Ph.D.

Alberto Corona, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Rohan Ghoshal


Molly Heyer, PhD

Molly Heyer, PhD


Masago Ishikawa, PhD

Masago Ishikawa, PhD

Associate Professor

Miriam Leifer

Associate Researcher

Nora McLaughlin

Nora McLaughlin

Administrative Manager

Richard O’Connor, PhD

Richard O’Connor, PhD

Assistant Professor

Piya Pillai

Piya Pillai

Associate Researcher

Mi Ryung (Miriam) Shin

Mi Ryung (Miriam) Shin

Associate Researcher

JunShi Wang, PhD

JunShi Wang, PhD


Lauren Wills, PhD

Lauren Wills, PhD

Assistant Professor

Join the Team

Job Opportunities in the Kenny Lab
Currently seeking Postdocs and Research Associates

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is seeking enthusiastic, detail-oriented applicants to join the Kenny Lab, a multi-disciplinary team focused on the neurobiological mechanisms of drug addiction. The School is one of the nation’s leading medical schools, ranked in the top 20 schools for NIH funding. The Nash Family Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine is ranked number 1 in NIH funding and is undergoing rapid expansion. The Department offers an outstanding intellectual and multidisciplinary research environment with a commitment to translational research.  State-of-the-art infrastructure and support is available in the Department.

  1. Postdoctoral position in in vivo calcium imaging – The project will investigate the circuit-based mechanisms of drug addiction.  Candidates should have a Ph.D. and a background in in vivo or ex vivo calcium imaging or electrophysiology.
  2. Postdoctoral position in noncoding RNA – The project will investigate the role for noncoding RNAs in regulating the actions of drugs of abuse on addiction-relevant circuits in the brain.   Candidates should have a Ph.D. or M.D and a strong background in molecular/cellular neuroscience. Those with experience in animal behavioral testing are particularly encouraged to apply.
  3. Postdoctoral position in neuroimmunology – The project will investigate how immune signaling influences the actions of drugs of abuse on addiction-relevant circuits in the brain.   Candidates should have a Ph.D. or M.D and a background in immunology/cell biology. Those with experience in single cell immunology approaches (e.g., CYTOF; RNA-Seq) are encouraged to apply.
  4. Research Associate position in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience – Responsibilities include tissue culture and basic molecular biology including isolation of RNA and DNA, cDNA preparation, PCR, gel electrophoresis and library preparation. Job requirements include a Bachelor’s degree in science previous experience in cellular and molecular biology.
  5. Research Associate position in Circuit-focused Neuroscience – The successful candidate will assist with projects focused on the circuit-based mechanisms of drug addiction using in vivo electrophysiology and calcium imaging approaches. Responsibilities include stereotaxic surgery, in vivo behavioral and physiology experiments, and data analysis. Job requirements include a Bachelor’s degree in science, with previous experience with in vivo neuroscience a plus.
  6. Research Assistant Position in Mouse Colony Management – A position is available for a full-time Research Assistant / Research Technician to manage our laboratory animal colony. The successful candidate will be responsible for breeding, genotyping and maintaining our laboratory animals. Opportunities will also be available to engage in experiments. Applicants should have an undergraduate degree in biological sciences or a related field (e.g., molecular biology) and experience with animal behavior. Experience with genotyping protocols is desirable.

Interested candidates should submit their Cover Letter, Curriculum Vitae and contact information for at least three professional references. Please indicate which position you are applying for.  Materials should be sent as a single PDF file, to:
Dr. Paul J. Kenny, Professor and Chairman
c/o Nora McLaughlin (
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai