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Leora Yetnikoff

Assistant Professor

Should adolescents be held criminally responsible for illegal behavior? In attending to this question, loaded with practical, societal and moral ramifications, the judicial system has increasingly come to rely on developmental neuroscience and psychology research (Steinberg 2013, Nat Neurosci Rev, 14: 513 - 518). That adolescents are prone to impulsive and risky behaviors has long been recognized. However, only recently has it begun to be understood that the adolescent brain is structurally and functionally different from the adult brain, with changes in connectivity and myelination continuing into early adulthood. While precise mechanisms that underlie the uniquely vulnerable nature of adolescent behavior are not known, responsible maturational processes are thought to reside, at least partly, in neural circuits that affect mesocorticolimbic dopamine function. Employing an arsenal of cutting-edge tools from multiple neuroscience disciplines, research in my laboratory seeks to understand the development of inputs to midbrain dopamine neurons. Questions of interest include, what are the behavioral consequences of age-related differences in connections of midbrain dopamine neurons? How do events experienced during adolescence modulate the development of midbrain dopamine neuron connections?


PhD (Neuroscience), McGill University

MSc (Psychiatry), McGill University

BA (Psychology, Honors), Concordia University

Scholarship and Publications

Chuhma N, Mingote S, Kalmbach A, Yetnikoff L, & Rayport S (2016). Heterogeneity in dopamine neuron synaptic connections across the striatum and its relevance for schizophrenia. Biological Psychiatry (in press).

Yetnikoff L, Cheng A, Lavezzi HN, Parsely KP, & Zahm DS (2015). Sources of input to the rostromedial tegmental nucleus, ventral tegmental area and lateral habenula compared: a study in rat. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 523: 2426-2456.

Yetnikoff L, Lavezzi HN, Reichard RA, & Zahm DS (2014). An update on the connections of the ventral mesencephalic dopaminergic complex. Neuroscience, 282C: 23-48.

Yetnikoff L, Pokinko M, Arvanitogiannis A, & Flores C (2014). Adolescence: a time of transition for the phenotype of dcc heterozygous mice. Psychopharmacology, 231: 1705-1714.

Yetnikoff L, Reichard RA, Schwartz ZM, Parsely KP, & Zahm DS (2014). Protracted maturation of forebrain afferent connections of the ventral tegmental area in the rat. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 522: 1031-1047.

Yetnikoff L, & Arvanitogiannis A (2013). Differential sensitivity to the acute and sensitizing behavioral effects of methylphenidate as a function of strain in adolescent and young adult rats. Behavioral and Brain Functions, 9: 38.

Yetnikoff L, Almey A, Arvanitogiannis A, & Flores, C (2011). Abolition of the behavioral phenotype of adult netrin-1 receptor deficient mice by exposure to amphetamine during the juvenile period. Psychopharmacology, 217, 505-514.

Yetnikoff L, Eng C, Benning S, & Flores C (2010). Netrin-1 receptor in the ventral tegmental area is required for sensitization to amphetamine. European Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 1292-1302.

Yetnikoff L, Labelle-Dumais C, & Flores C (2007). Regulation of netrin-1 receptors by amphetamine in the adult brain. Neuroscience, 150, 764-773.

Yetnikoff L, & Arvanitogiannis A (2005). A role for affect in context specific sensitization to amphetamine. Behavioral Neuroscience, 119, 1678-81.

Contact Information

Office: Building 4S Room 205
Fax: 718.982.4114