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Kristen Keefe, PhD Headshot

Kristen Keefe, PhD

Academic Information

Departments Assistant Vice President, Office for Faculty - UofU Health , Associate Dean, Faculty Affairs - College of Pharmacy , Professor - Pharmacology & Toxicology

Academic Office Information

Research Interests

  • My laboratory is interested in the structure and function of the basal ganglia, a group of subcortical nuclei in the brain involved in the control of movement and cognition.


My laboratory is interested in the structure and function of the basal ganglia, a group of subcortical nuclei in the brain involved in the control of movement and cognition. The importance of the basal ganglia for normal behavior is highlighted by the profound deficits observed in patients with Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, schizophrenia, and drug addiction -- diseases that are associated with dysfunction in the basal ganglia.

Our work determines the influence of both endogenous and exogenous chemicals on the function of neurons in the basal ganglia in an attempt to better understand 1) the role that glutamate (via NMDA receptors) and monoamines (dopamine and serotonin) play in regulating the activity of basal ganglia nuclei, 2) the mechanisms by which drugs of abuse that affect the basal ganglia exert both their acute and long-lasting adverse effects, and 3) the mechanisms by which the function of the basal ganglia can be beneficially altered by drugs to better treat sequelae associated with dysfunction in these nuclei.

We use numerous techniques to examine the effects of both endogenous and exogenous drugs on basal ganglia function. These techniques include: 1) In vivo microdialysis in the brain of awake animals to examine changes in the release of amino acid, monoamine, and neuropeptide neurotransmitters. 2) In situ hybridization histochemistry to measure changes in the levels of messenger RNAs in brain neurons to examine short- and long-term changes in gene expression in neurons of the basal ganglia. 3) Immunohistochemistry to examine changes in protein expression in defined basal ganglia neurons and nuclei. 4) Behavioral analyses of learning and memory processes mediated by corticostriatal circuits. Coupling these techniques, we can begin to understand how neurotransmitters and drugs acutely affect the function of basal ganglia neurons and the neuroadaptive changes that occur in response to neural injury in the basal ganglia and exposure to therapeutic and abused drugs.


FAR Webpage

College of Pharmacy

Education History

Undergraduate Case Western Reserve University
Graduate Training University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh
Postdoctoral Fellowship NIMH
Postdoctoral Fellow

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Keefe, K.A. and Horner, K.A. (2010) Neurotransmitter Regulation of Basal Ganglia Gene Expression (Chapter 27).  In Handbook of Basal Ganglia Structure and Function, a Decade of Progress (H. Steiner and K.Y. Tseng, Eds.), Elsevier, Inc., pp 461-490.

  2. Howard, C.D., Keefe, K.A., Garris, P.A., and Daberkow, D.P.  (2011) Methamphetamine-induced neurotoxicity decreases phasic, but not tonic, dopaminergic signaling in the rat striatum.  The Journal of Neurochemistry, Aug;118(4):668-676. PMID: 21668447 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

  3. Son, J-H, Latimer, C., and Keefe, K.A. (2011) Impaired formation of stimulus-response, but not action-outcome, associations in rats with methamphetamine-induced neurotoxicity.  Neuropsychopharmacology, Nov;36(12): 2441-2451. PMID: 21775980 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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