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Jessica Barson

Jessica Barson, PhD

Associate Professor

Department: Neurobiology & Anatomy


  • PhD - Princeton University (2009)
  • Postdoctoral Training - The Rockefeller University

Awards & Honors

  • Provost Awards for Outstanding Scholarly Productivity, Mid-Career, DUCOM (2023)

Jessica Barson, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Drexel University College of Medicine.

Research Overview

Visit the Barson lab.

Lab Personnel:
Brody Carpenter, Doctoral Student
Cydney Martin, Graduate Student
Joe Mazzerina, Master’s Student
Destinee Monasterio, Master’s Student
Annie Hawks, Laboratory Technician
Malcolm Jennings, Laboratory Technician

Research Interests

Alcohol use disorder, binge eating disorder, sex differences, individual differences, limbic system, neuropeptides, dopamine, serotonin


Image of Jessica Barson's research into the neurobiology of addicition

Our laboratory employs cutting-edge techniques and a multidisciplinary approach to determine the neural basis of addiction, focusing on how neuropeptides in the limbic system affect disorders such as alcohol use disorder and binge eating disorder. Additionally, we investigate sex differences and individual differences in addiction, to determine both why some individuals are more likely to develop dependence and how these prone individuals may differ even from each other. To answer these questions, we investigate neuropeptides and how they act and interact with each other and with monoamines in specific regions of the limbic system, the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus, the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex. Our goal is to discover innovative drug therapies to treat addictive behavior.

We use a wide variety of techniques in the lab:

  • Chemogenetics (DREADDs), viral manipulation of gene expression
  • Quantitative real-time PCR, in situ hybridization
  • ELISA, Western blot, immunohistochemistry
  • Tract tracing
  • Microinjection in awake, behaving animals
  • Operant substance self-administration and home cage intake
  • Activity chamber locomotor behavior, open field locomotor behavior, hole board exploration, place preference, elevated plus maze anxiety, light-dark box anxiety, forced swim test

Active Funding

R01 AA028228 - Mechanisms of rostrocaudal differences in accumbal kappa opioid receptor effects on ethanol drinking.

R01 AA028218 - Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide 27 in the paraventricular thalamus and its projections: Role in ethanol drinking.

Pfizer Global Obesity ASPIRE Competitive Research Grant Program – A Translational Understanding of Obesity-Related Phenotypes Using Brain Imaging and Manipulation

In the Media


Selected Publications

"Intranasal Administration of Oxytocin Attenuates Social Recognition Deficits and Increases Prefrontal Cortex Inhibitory Postsynaptic Currents following Traumatic Brain Injury"
Runyan A, Lengel D, Huh JW, Barson JR, Raghupathi R
eNeuro. Jun 11;8(3):ENEURO.0061-21.2021 (2021)

"A Role for the Amygdala in Impairments of Affective Behaviors Following Mild Traumatic Brain Injury"
McCorkle TA, Barson, JR, Raghupathi R
Front Behav Neurosci. Mar 4;15:601275 (2021)

"Expression and Distribution of Neuropeptide-Expressing Cells Throughout the Rodent Paraventricular Nucleus of the Thalamus"
Curtis GR, Oakes K, Barson JR
Front Behav Neurosci. Jan 14;14:634163 (2021)

"A little night(PA)CAP: pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide mediates behavioral effects of alcohol withdrawal"
Pirino BE, Barson JR
Neuropsychopharmacology. Feb;46(3):489-490 (2021)

"Effects of pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide isoforms in nucleus accumbens subregions on ethanol drinking"
Gargiulo AT, Pirino BE, Curtis GR, Barson JR
Addict Biol. May;26(3):e12972 (2021)

“Effects of pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide isoforms in nucleus accumbens subregions on ethanol drinking”
Gargiulo AT, Pirino BE, Curtis GR, Barson JR
Addict Biol; 26(3):e12972 (2021)

"The Paraventricular Nucleus of the Thalamus Is an Important Node in the Emotional Processing Network"
Barson JR, Mack NR, Gao WJ
Front Behav Neurosci. 2020 Oct 29;14:598469 (2020)

"Heightened Exploratory Behavior Following Chronic Excessive Ethanol Drinking: Mediation by Neurotensin Receptor Type 2 in the Anterior Paraventricular Thalamus"
Pandey S, Barson JR
Alcohol Clin Exp Res. Sep;44(9):1747-1759 (2020)

"The role of neuropeptides in drug and ethanol abuse: Medication targets for drug and alcohol use disorders"
Barson JR
Brain Res. Aug 1;1740:146876 (2020)

"Progesterone treatment following traumatic brain injury in the 11-day-old rat attenuates cognitive deficits and neuronal hyperexcitability in adolescence"
Lengel D, Huh JW, Barson JR, Raghupathi R
Exp Neurol. Aug;330:113329 (2020)

“Kappa-opioid receptor-dependent changes in dopamine and anxiety-like or approach-avoidance behavior occur differentially across the nucleus accumbens shell rostro-caudal axis”
Pirino BE, Spodnick MB, Gargiulo AT, Curtis GR, Barson JR, Karkhanis AN
Neuropharmacology; 181:108341 (2020)

"Short- and long-access palatable food self-administration results in different phenotypes of binge-type eating"
Curtis GR, Coudriet JM, Sanzalone L, Mack NR, Stein LM, Hayes MR, Barson JR
Physiol Behav; 212:112700 (2019)

"Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide-27 (PACAP-27) in the Thalamic Paraventricular Nucleus Is Stimulated by Ethanol Drinking"
Gupta A, Gargiulo AT, Curtis GR, Badve PS, Pandey S, Barson JR
Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 42(9):1650-60, 2018

"Orexin/hypocretin and dysregulated eating: Promotion of foraging behavior"
Barson JR
Brain Res [Epub ahead of print] (2018)

"Orexin/Hypocretin System: Role in Food and Drug Overconsumption"
Barson JR, Leibowitz SF
Int Rev Neurobiol, 136:199-237 (2017)

"Hypocretin receptor 1 knockdown in the ventral tegmental area attenuates mesolimbic dopamine signaling and reduces motivation for cocaine"
Bernstein DL, Badve PS, Barson JR, Bass CE, España RA
Addict Biol. [Epub ahead of print], 2017

"Neurotensin in the posterior thalamic paraventricular nucleus: inhibitor of pharmacologically relevant ethanol drinking"
Pandey S, Badve PS, Curtis GR, Leibowitz SF & Barson JR
Addict Biol. [Epub ahead of print], 2017

"Substance P in anterior thalamic paraventricular nucleus: Promotion of ethanol drinking in response to orexin from the hypothalamus"
Barson JR, Poon K, Ho HT, Sanzalone L & Leibowitz SF
Addict Biol, 22(1): 58-69, 2017

"Involvement of the CXCL12 System in the Stimulatory Effects of Prenatal Exposure to High-Fat Diet on Hypothalamic Orexigenic Peptides and Behavior in Offspring"
Poon K, Barson JR, Shi H, Chang GQ & Leibowitz SF
Front Behav Neurosci, 11:91, 2016

"Role of hypothalamic neuropeptide signaling in alcohol addiction"
Barson JR & Leibowitz SF
Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry, Epub ahead of print, 2015

"Anterior thalamic paraventricular nucleus is involved in intermittent access ethanol drinking: Role of orexin receptor 2"
Barson JR, Ho HT & Leibowitz SF
Addict Biol, 20(3), 469-81, 2015

"Hypothalamic peptides controlling alcohol intake: Differential effects on microstructure of drinking bouts"
Chen Y-W, Barson JR, Chen A, Hoebel BG & Leibowitz SF
Alcohol, 48(7), 657-664, 2014

"Galanin and ingestive behavior"
Barson JR, Morganstern I & Leibowitz SF
In Handbook of Biologically Active Peptides, 2nd Ed, SC Woods & AJ Kastin (eds), San Diego: Elsevier, Chapter 147, 2013

"Opioids in the perifornical lateral hypothalamus suppress ethanol drinking"
Chen Y-W, Barson JR, Chen A, Hoebel BG & Leibowitz SF
, 47(1), 31-38, 2013

"Complementary roles of orexin and melanin-concentrating hormone in feeding behavior"
Barson JR, Morganstern I & Leibowitz SF
Int J Endocrinol, 2013(983964), 1-10, 2013

"Glutamatergic input to the lateral hypothalamus stimulates ethanol intake: Role of orexin and melanin-concentrating hormone"
Chen Y-W, Barson JR, Chen A, Hoebel BG & Leibowitz SF
Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 37(1), 123-131, 2013

"Neurochemical heterogeneity of rats predicted by different measures to be high ethanol consumers"
Barson JR, Fagan SE, Chang G-Q & Leibowitz SF
Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 37(S1), E141-151, 2013

"Developmental changes in embryonic hypothalamic neurons during prenatal fat exposure"
Poon K, Barson JR, Fagan SE & Leibowitz SF
Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 303(3), E432-441, 2012

"Effect of dietary fatty acid composition on food intake, triglycerides, and hypothalamic peptides"
Barson JR, Karatayev O, Gaysinskaya O, Chang G-Q & Leibowitz SF
Regul Pept, 173(1-3), 13-20, 2012

"Neurobiology of consummatory behavior: Mechanisms underlying overeating and drug use"
Barson JR, Morganstern I & Leibowitz SF
ILAR J, 53(1), 35-58, 2012

"Galanin and the orexin 2 receptor as possible regulators of enkephalin in the PVN: Relation to dietary fat"
Barson JR, Chang G-Q, Poon K, Morganstern I & Leibowitz SF
Neuroscience, 193, 10-20, 2011

"Similarities in hypothalamic and mesocorticolimbic circuits regulating the overconsumption of food and alcohol"
Barson JR, Morganstern I & Leibowitz SF
Physiol Behav, 104(1), 128-137, 2011

"Effect of chronic ethanol in the hypothalamus and extra-hypothalamic areas"
Chang G-Q, Barson JR, Karatayev O, Chang S-Y, Chen Y-W & Leibowitz SF
Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 34(5), 761-770, 2010

"Opioids in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus stimulate ethanol intake"
Barson JR, Carr AJ, Soun JE, Sobhani NC, Leibowitz SF & Hoebel BG
Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 34(2), 214-222, 2010

"Galanin and consummatory behavior: Special relationship with dietary fat, alcohol and circulating lipids"
Barson JR, Morganstern I & Leibowitz SF
In Galanin, T. Hökfelt (ed), Basel: Springer, Experientia Supplementum Vol 102, 87-111, 2010

"Opioids in the hypothalamus control dopamine and acetylcholine levels in the nucleus accumbens"
Rada PV, Barson JR, Leibowitz SF & Hoebel BG
Brain Res, 1312, 1-9, 2009

"Hypothalamic injection of non-opioid peptides increases gene expression of the opioid enkephalin in hypothalamic and mesolimbic nuclei: Possible mechanism underlying their behavioral effects"
Karatayev O, Barson JR, Chang G-Q & Leibowitz SF
Peptides, 30(12), 2423-2431, 2009

"Opioids in the nucleus accumbens stimulate ethanol intake"
Barson JR, Carr AJ, Soun JE, Sobhani NC, Leibowitz SF & Hoebel BG. Physiol Behav, 98(4), 453-459, 2009

"Positive relationship between dietary fat, ethanol intake, triglycerides, and hypothalamic peptides: Counteraction by lipid-lowering drugs"
Barson JR, Karatayev O, Chang G-Q, Johnson DF, Bocarsly ME, Hoebel BG & Leibowitz SF
Alcohol, 42(6), 433-441, 2009

Contact Information

Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy
2900 W. Queen Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19129
Phone: 215.991.8401
Fax: 215.843.9082