Meet the Scholars

Updated: June 12, 2015

Jackson J. Cone

Jackson J. Cone

CBC Scholar: Class of 2012
PhD Candidate, Program in Neurosciences, UIC
Advisor: Mitchell Roitman




Obesity is rampant due in large part to the availability of densely caloric, highly palatable foods which engage areas of the brain classically thought of as reward circuitry. Activation of this circuitry, and in particular increases in dopamine within the nucleus accumbens, is thought to promote food-seeking even in the absence of caloric need. My work investigates the link between peripheral signals that have been traditionally viewed as homeostatic regulators of food intake and their interactions with dopamine neurons during food-seeking behaviors. To accomplish this, I measure fluctuations of dopamine within the nucleus accumbens with sub-second temporal resolution. In so doing, I can relate increases in dopamine to specific behavioral events and quantify how they are modulated by peptide hormones that signal energy status. Sucrose pellets are delivered to rats with variable inter-pellet intervals. Each pellet evokes a brief dopamine spike, lasting just seconds, in the nucleus accumbens. If a cue predicts the delivery of the sucrose pellet, dopamine release shifts to the onset of the cue. My initial study demonstrated that the peripheral hormone ghrelin, which regulates feeding behavior, dynamically influences the response of dopamine to food rewards as well as environmental cues that trigger food-seeking behaviors. Our data demonstrate that in addition to affecting homeostatic circuitry, peripheral feeding hormones also regulate feeding behavior by selectively modulating the magnitude of dopamine signaling to food and food-related stimuli. I am following up the initial work by investigating the specific brain sites where administration of feeding hormones can influence dopamine signaling in both awake-behaving animals as well as acute brain slice preparations. This program of research will shed considerable light on human disorders of motivation such as obesity and could potentially inform future therapeutics aimed at treating the disease.



Cone JJ, Roitman JD, Roitman MF. Ghrelin regulates phasic dopamine and nucleus accumbens signaling evoked by food-predictive stimuli. J Neurochem. 2015 Jun;133(6):844-56. (PubMed)

Fortin SM, Cone JJ, Ng-Evans S, McCutcheon JE, Roitman MF. Sampling phasic dopamine signaling with fast-scan cyclic voltammetry in awake, behaving rats. Curr Protoc Neurosci. 2015 Jan 5;70:7.25.1-7.25.20. (PubMed)

McCutcheon JE, Cone JJ, Sinon CG, Fortin SM, Kantak PA, Witten IB, Deisseroth K, Stuber GD, Roitman MF. Optical suppression of drug-evoked phasic dopamine release. Front Neural Circuits. 2014 Sep 17;8:114. eCollection 2014. (PubMed)

Mietlicki-Baase EG, Reiner DJ, Cone JJ, Olivos DR, McGrath LE, Zimmer DJ, Roitman MF, Hayes MR. Amylin Modulates the Mesolimbic Dopamine System to Control Energy Balance. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Jan;40(2):372-385. (PubMed) (PubMed)

Cone JJ, McCutcheon JE, Roitman MF. Ghrelin Acts as an Interface between Physiological State and Phasic Dopamine Signaling. J Neurosci. 2014 Apr 2;34(14):4905-13. (PubMed)

Koranda JL, Cone JJ, McGehee DS, Roitman MF, Beeler JA, Zhuang X. Nicotinic Receptors Regulate the Dynamic Range of Dopamine Release In Vivo. J Neurophysiol. 2014 Jan;111(1):103-11. (PubMed)

Ryczko D, Grätsch S, Auclair F, Dubé C, Bergeron S, Alpert MH, Cone JJ, Roitman MF, Alford S, Dubuc R. Forebrain dopamine neurons project down to a brainstem region controlling locomotion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Aug 20;110(34):E3235-42. (PubMed)

Cone JJ, Chartoff EH, Potter DN, Ebner SR, Roitman MF. Prolonged High Fat Diet Reduces Dopamine Reuptake without Altering DAT Gene Expression. PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58251. (PubMed)

Brown HD, McCutcheon JE, Cone JJ, Ragozzino ME, Roitman MF. Primary food reward and reward-predictive stimuli evoke different patterns of phasic dopamine signaling throughout the striatum. Eur J Neurosci. 2011 Dec;34(12):1997-2006. (PubMed)

Roitman MF, Wescott S, Cone JJ, McLane MP, Wolfe HR. MSI-1436 reduces acute food intake without affecting dopamine transporter activity. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2010 Nov;97(1):138-43. (PubMed)

Tye KM, Tye LD, Cone JJ, Hekkelman EF, Janak PH, Bonci A. Methylphenidate facilitates learning-induced amygdala plasticity. Nat Neurosci. 2010 Apr;13(4):475-81. (PubMed)

Cone JJ, Roitman MF. Homeostatic circuitry pushes back. Cell Science Reviews. 2010 6(3): 25-26.

Tye KM*, Cone JJ*, Schairer WW, Janak PH. Amygdala neural encoding of the absence of reward during extinction. J Neurosci. 2010 Jan 6;30(1):116-25. (*Co-first author.) (PubMed)

Chaudhri N, Sahuque LL, Cone JJ, Janak PH. Reinstated ethanol-seeking in rats is modulated by environmental context and requires the nucleus accumbens core. Eur J Neurosci. 2008 Dec;28(11):2288-98. (PubMed)



  • CBC Scholar 2012-2013
  • UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Science Predoctoral Fellowship (TL1 RR029877)
  • NIH Predoctoral Fellowship (NIH T32 MH067631-06A1)
  • UIC Chancellor’s Supplemental Research Fellowship



Ashraf Abbas, B.S. Supervised his Undergraduate Honors Thesis in Neuroscience (2010-2011): “Acute effects of the HDAC inhibitor valproic acid on phasic dopamine signaling.”



Co-Instructor: History 98 (Spring 2006). University of California, Berkeley DE-Cal Program.