Justin S Rhodes


Research Description

My laboratory is broadly interested in exploring how genes and environment affect voluntary behavior. My early work involved a selective breeding experiment in which mice were bred to display extremely high levels of voluntary physical exercise on running wheels. Results of pharmacological studies and brain imaging suggested that the neural basis of motivation for high running shared many features in common with that of motivation to self-administer drugs of abuse. One of the main focuses of my current research program is to study the extent to which the physiological bases of natural forms of motivation (such as motivation for food, sex or exercise) overlap with drug-induced motivation. Current projects include: 1) Using high-resolution brain imaging (immunohistochemical detection of c-Fos and Zif268) to identify brain regions that become activated when mice are placed into an environment where they had previously received a drug of abuse as compared to a natural reward, such as food or sex; 2) Studying the neural and genetic basis of excessive alcohol drinking in mouse models that are genetically predisposed to self administer intoxicating doses of ethanol; 3) Using selective breeding to develop lines of mice that display extremely high levels of physical activity in their home cages to study effects of genetic hyperactivity on learning and memory, aging, stress, responses to drugs of abuse and more generally to identify the genetic basis of hyperactivity and relationship to drug addiction; 4) Studying the effects of exercise on the morphology and physiology of the mouse brain to understand how exercise can improve learning and memory with an emphasis on relating the animal research to current human findings.


Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Additional Campus Affiliations

Affiliate, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology
Professor, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology

Recent Publications

Dodd, L. D., Nowak, E., Lange, D., Parker, C. G., DeAngelis, R., Gonzalez, J. A., & Rhodes, J. S. (2019). Active feminization of the preoptic area occurs independently of the gonads in Amphiprion ocellaris. Hormones and Behavior, 112, 65-76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2019.04.002

Dvoretskiy, S., Garg, K., Munroe, M., Pincu, Y., Mahmassani, Z. S., Coombs, C., ... Boppart, M. D. (2019). The impact of skeletal muscle contraction on CD146+Lin- pericytes. American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology, 317(5), C1011-C1024. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpcell.00156.2019

Mailing, L. J., Allen, J. M., Pence, B. D., Rytych, J., Sun, Y., Bhattacharya, T. K., ... Woods, J. A. (2019). Behavioral response to fiber feedingis cohort-dependent and associated with gut microbiota composition in mice. Behavioural Brain Research, 359, 731-736. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2018.09.012

Rhodes, J. S. (2019). Neurogenetics of motivation for physical activity. In Routledge Handbook of Sport and Exercise Systems Genetics (pp. 94-106). Taylor and Francis. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315146287-8

Ujjainwala, A. L., Courtney, C. D., Wojnowski, N. M., Rhodes, J. S., & Christian, C. (2019). Differential impacts on multiple forms of spatial and contextual memory in diazepam binding inhibitor knockout mice. Journal of Neuroscience Research, 97(6), 683-697. https://doi.org/10.1002/jnr.24393

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