Christie D Fowler

picture of Christie D Fowler

Assistant Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior
School of Biological Sciences

Ph.D., Florida State University, 2004, Neuroscience

M.A., Florida State University, 2001

B.A., Baldwin-Wallace College, 1998

Phone: (949) 824-8363

University of California, Irvine
1232 McGaugh Hall
Mail Code: 4550
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Addiction, Aversion, Behavior, Brain, Genetics, Nicotine, Motivation, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Reward, Schizophrenia
Academic Distinctions
2015 Avenir Award, NIDA
2015 Fellow, Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (CNLM)
2016 Associate Member, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP)
2016 ‘Scientist to Watch’, The Scientist magazine
2018 Invited Visiting Professor, University of Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
2015-present Associate Editor, Journal of Neuroscience
2018-present Editorial Board Member, Neuropsychopharmacology
2008-2014: Staff Scientist, Laboratory of Dr. Paul Kenny, Molecular Therapeutics, The Scripps Research Institute, Jupiter, FL
2004-2005: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Laboratory of Dr. Bruce Trapp, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH
Research Abstract
My overall research goals are centered on elucidating the neurobiological mechanisms underlying motivated behaviors and motivational deficits associated with neuropsychiatric disorders. At present, I am focused on determining how drugs of abuse modulate brain circuitries involved in the emergence and maintenance of drug seeking behaviors that characterize addiction. While the vast majority of research in the field has focused on the mesocorticolimbic dopamine ‘reward’ pathway, much less is known about the involvement of other motivation-related circuits in addiction. Recently, I established a key role for the medial habenula (MHb) and its major afferent target, the interpeduncular nucleus (IPN), in controlling the addictive properties of nicotine. Specifically, I found that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the MHb-IPN, particularly those containing a5 subunits, control the aversive effects of nicotine and thereby limit consumption of the drug. This finding likely explains why human allelic variation in the gene encoding the a5 subunit gene (CHRNA5) dramatically increases vulnerability to tobacco dependence and smoking related diseases in humans, such as lung cancer. Moreover, these data have promoted the pharmaceutical development of novel small molecule a5 nAChR ligands that will potentially be used as smoking cessation agents. My lab is currently focused on defining the neurobiological mechanisms in the MHb-IPN circuitry and downstream targets that regulate drug reinforcement, maintenance of drug seeking behavior, and memory for drug-associated cues.
Chen E, Lallai V, Grimes NP, Pushkin AN, Fowler JP and Fowler CD. (2018) Altered baseline and nicotine-mediated behavioral and cholinergic profiles in ChAT-Cre mouse lines. Journal of Neuroscience, 38(9):2177-2188. PMID: 29371319
Bobadilla AC, Heinsbroek JA, Gipson CD, Griffin WC, Fowler CD, Kenny PJ, Kalivas PW (2017) Corticostriatal plasticity, neuronal ensembles and regulation of drug-seeking behavior. Progress in Brain Research, 235: 93-112. PMID: 29054293
Lallai V and Fowler CD (2017) More than just chillin’: Interactive effects of menthol and nicotine in drug reward. Neuropsychopharmacology, 42(12):2283-2284. PMID: 28553838
Fowler CD, Gipson CD, Kleykamp A, Rupprecht LE, Rees VW, Gould TJ, Oliver J, Bagdas D, Damaj MI, Schmidt HD, Harrell PT, Duncan A, and DeBiasi M, on behalf of the Basic Science Network of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (2017) Basic science and public policy: Informed regulation for nicotine and tobacco products. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, Epub ahead of print. PMID: 29065200
Tuesta LM, Chen Z, Duncan A, Fowler CD, Ishikawa M, Lee BR, Liu XZ, Lu Q, Cameron M, Hayes MR, Kamenecka TM, Pletcher M, and Kenny PJ (2017) GLP-1 acts on habenula avoidance circuits to control nicotine intake. Nature Neuroscience, 20(5): 708-716. PMID: 28368384
Fowler CD (2017) The habenulo-interpeduncular pathway and nicotine withdrawal. In FS Hall, JW Young & A Der-Avakin (Eds.), Negative affective states and cognitive impairments in nicotine dependence (pp. 192-204). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.
Ochoa V, Loeffler AJ, Fowler CD. (2015) Emerging role of the cerebrospinal fluid – neuronal interface in neuropathology. Neuro Open J., 2(3): 92-98.
Fowler CD, Tuesta LM and Kenny PJ (2013) Role of a5* nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the effects of acute and chronic nicotine treatment on brain reward function in mice. Psychopharm., 229(3): 503-13. PMID: 23958943
Fowler CD and Kenny PJ (2013) Nicotine aversion: Neurobiological mechanisms and relevance to tobacco dependence vulnerability. Neuropharm., Epub ahead of print. PMID: 24055497
Lotfipour S, Leach P, Byun JS, Fowler CD, Murphy NP, Kenny PJ, Gould TJ and Boulter J (2013) Targeted deletion of the mouse a2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit gene Chrna2 potentiates nicotine-modulated behaviors. J Neurosci, 33(18): 7728-41. PMID: 23637165
Fowler CD and Kenny PJ (2012) Habenular signaling in nicotine reinforcement. Neurospsychopharm., 37(1): 306-7. PMID: 22157872
Hollander JA, Pham D, Fowler CD and Kenny PJ (2012) Hypocretin-1 receptors regulate the reinforcing and reward-enhancing effects of cocaine: pharmacological and behavioral genetics evidence. Front Behav Neurosci., 6:47. PMID: 22837742
Fowler CD, Liu Q, Johnson PM, Marks MJ and Kenny PJ (2011) Habenular a5* nicotinic receptor signaling controls nicotine intake. Nature, 471(7340):597-601. PMID: 21278726
Fowler CD and Kenny PJ (2011) Intravenous nicotine self-administration and cue-induced reinstatement in mice: effects of nicotine dose, rate of drug infusion and prior instrumental training. Neuropharm., 61:687-698. PMID: 21640128
Fowler CD and Kenny PJ (2011) Utility of genetically modified mice for understanding the neurobiology of substance use disorders. Human Genetics, 131:941-57. PMID: 22190154
Tuesta LM, Fowler CD and Kenny PJ (2011) Recent advances in understanding nicotinic receptor signaling mechanisms that regulate drug self-administration behavior. Biochem. Pharmacol., 82:984-995. PMID: 21740894
Schaefer A, Im HI, Veno MT, Fowler CD, Min A, Intrator A, Kjems J, Kenny PJ, O’Carroll D and Greengard P (2010) Argonaute 2 in dopamine 2 receptor-expressing neurons regulate cocaine addiction. J. Exp. Med., 207(9): 1843-51. PMID: 20643829
Fowler CD and Kenny PJ (2008) Subtypes of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in addiction, dependence and withdrawal: Evidence from genetically modified mice. Behav. Pharmacol., 19(5-6):461-484. PMID: 18690103
Young EA, Fowler CD, Kidd G, Chang A, Rudick R, Fisher E and Trapp BD (2008) Imaging correlates of decreased axonal Na+/K+ ATPase in chronic multiple sclerosis lesions. Ann. Neurol., 63:428-435. PMID: 18438950
Fowler CD, Liu Y and Wang ZX (2007) Estrogen and adult neurogenesis in the amygdala and hypothalamus. Brain Res. Rev., 57(2):342-351. PMID: 17764748
Fowler CD, Johnson F and Wang ZX (2005) Estrogen regulation of cell proliferation and distribution of estrogen receptor-alpha in the brains of adult female prairie and meadow voles. J. Comp. Neurol., 489(2):166-179. PMID: 15984004
Fowler CD, Freeman ME, and Wang ZX (2003) Newly proliferated cells in the adult male amygdala are affected by gonadal steroid hormones, J. Neurobiol., 57(3):257-269. PMID: 14608662
Fowler CD and Wang ZX (2003) Adult neurogenesis in the mammalian brain: exogenous and endogenous influences. Acta Zoologica Sinica, 49:151-162.
Fowler CD, Liu Y, Ouimet C, and Wang ZX (2002) The effects of social environment on adult neurogenesis in the female prairie vole. J. Neurobiol., 51: 115-128. PMID: 11932953
Liu Y, Fowler CD, Young LJ, Yan Q, Insel TR and Wang ZX (2001) Expression and estrogen regulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene and protein in the forebrain of female prairie voles. J. Comp. Neurol., 433:499-514. PMID: 11304714
Liu Y, Fowler CD and Wang ZX (2001) Ontogeny of brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene expression in the forebrain of prairie and montane voles. Dev. Brain Res., 127:51-61. PMID: 11287064
Liu Y, Curtis JT, Fowler CD, Spencer C, Houpt T, and Wang ZX (2001) Differential expression of vasopressin, oxytocin, and corticotrophin-releasing hormone messenger RNA in the paraventricular nucleus of the prairie vole brain following stress. J. Neuroendo., 13:1059-1065. PMID: 11722702
Professional Societies
Society for Neuroscience
Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT)
American Society for Exosomes and Microvesicles (ASEMV)
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP)
Graduate Programs
Neurobiology and Behavior

Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program

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