foto

I. Willuhn MSc PhD

Position
Associate Professor
Main activities
Research
Specialisation
Behavioral Neuroscience
Focus of research

I am a behavioral neuroscientist with a background in functional neuroanatomy. I am interested in how our brain controls motivated behavior and why we sometimes lose that control. My scientific focus lies on how release of the neurotransmitter dopamine (and other neuromodulators such as serotonin) regulates cortico-basal ganglia networks under normal (e.g., reinforcement learning, decision making), as well as pathological conditions (e.g., OCD, drug addiction). My research group pursues these goals by collecting a range of neurobiological measurements in awake behaving rodents (voltammetry, electrophysiology, calcium imaging etc.) and by probing neural mechanisms with optogenetic, chemogenetic, and pharmacological interventions. 

We study how the brain produces automatic and habitual actions (behavior outside of conscious control), and how dysregulation of such actions may contribute to compulsive behavior, a common denominator to several neuro-psychiatric disorders such as OCD, addictions, and eating disorders. Compulsive behavior may occur due to dysregulation of several individual behavioral functions (components), such as cognitive flexibility and habit formation. We study compulsive behavior itself, a variety of its presumed components, and their brain mechanisms in rodents, but in the long run, our research is intended to lead to novel insights that improve psychiatric therapy in human patients.  

Key publications
  • Willuhn Ingo, Burgeno Lauren M., Groblewski Peter A., Phillips Paul E. M. Excessive cocaine use results from decreased phasic dopamine signaling in the striatum Nature neuroscience 2014;17 (5):704-709 [PubMed]
  • Willuhn Ingo, Burgeno Lauren M., Everitt Barry J., Phillips Paul E. M. Hierarchical recruitment of phasic dopamine signaling in the striatum during the progression of cocaine use Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2012;109 (50):20703-20708 [PubMed]
  • Willuhn Ingo, Tose Amanda, Wanat Matthew J., Hart Andrew S., Hollon Nick G., Phillips Paul E. M., Schwarting Rainer K. W., Wöhr Markus Phasic dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens in response to pro-social 50 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations in rats Journal of neuroscience 2014;34 (32):10616-10623 [PubMed]
  • Flagel Shelly B., Clark Jeremy J., Robinson Terry E., Mayo Leah, Czuj Alayna, Willuhn Ingo, Akers Christina A., Clinton Sarah M., Phillips Paul E. M., Akil Huda A selective role for dopamine in stimulus-reward learning Nature 2011;469 (7328):53-57 [PubMed]
  • Clark Jeremy J., Sandberg Stefan G., Wanat Matthew J., Gan Jerylin O., Horne Eric A., Hart Andrew S., Akers Christina A., Parker Jones G., Willuhn Ingo, Martinez Vicente, Evans Scott B., Stella Nephi, Phillips Paul E. M. Chronic microsensors for longitudinal, subsecond dopamine detection in behaving animals Nature methods 2010;7 (2):126-129 [PubMed]
All Publications
Curriculum Vitae

EDUCATION

2001-2007   Doctoral dissertation, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, Rosalind Franklin University/The Chicago Medical School, Chicago, IL, USA

1996-2001   Diploma in Physiological Psychology (equiv. M.Sc.) at Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf, Germany

 

RESEARCH EXPERIENCE

2015-present   Universitair hoofddocent (UHD), Associate Professor, Academic Medical Center (AMC)

2015-present   Group leader, Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN), Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)

2015-present   Principal Investigator, Academic Medical Center (AMC)

2014-present   Universitair docent (UD), Assistant Professor, Academic Medical Center (AMC)

2014-2015   Senior scientist, Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN), Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)

2010-2013   Scientific advisor of the Behavioral Core Facility for Drug Addiction Research at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

2008-2013   Postdoctoral research, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

2001-2007   Dissertation research, Rosalind Franklin University/The Chicago Medical School, North Chicago, IL, USA

2000-2001   Diploma (MSc) thesis research, Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf, Germany

 

Research programmes

I. Willuhn MSc PhD (The neurocircuitry of compulsive behavior)

My reserach group studies how the brain produces automatic and habitual actions, and how dysregulation of such actions may contribute to compulsive behavior. Compulsive behavior is believed to be a central common denominator to several neuro-psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), addictions, and eating disorders. Compulsive behavior is likely constituted by the dysregulation of individual behavioral functions (components), such as cognitive inflexibility, and it is aggravated by stress and anxiety, whereby it is hypothesized that aberrant habit formation is crucial for its development. The main objective of my research program is to provide a better understanding of the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of compulsive behavior. In order to do so, compulsive behavior itself and a variety of its presumed components is studied in rodents, while neural measurements and interventions are performed using state-of-the-art methodology. Neural measurements are collected in vivo using electrophysiology, fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, calcium imaging, microdialysis, and fMRI, whereas in vivo interventions include deep-brain stimulation, chemogenetics, optogenetics, and pharmacological treatments. My research is intended to lead to novel insights that may tie psychiatric diseases together that are now often studied and treated separately, and to pave the way to define and treat conditions that are common to OCD, addictions, and eating disorders.

Postdocs
T. Arbab MSc
R. Faust PhD
A. Parthasarathy
P. Warnaar

PhD Students
L.M. Burgeno BA

Others
R.R.T. Hamelink
N. Yee PhD

Prof. D.A.J.P. Denys PhD (Deep Brain Stimulation and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders)

Current research funding
  • AMC (Vrijgesteld)
  • Crediteurenadm. VUmc, p/a Profource Service Center
  • Europese Unie
  • NWO