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Paul E. M. Phillips, Ph.D.

Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Department of Pharmacology
Graduate Program in Neuroscience
Graduate Program in Molecular & Cellular Biology
Center for Drug Addiction Research


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Paul graduated in Physiology from the University of Liverpool in 1993. He completed his Ph.D. in Neuroscience in 1999 from St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry (University of London) under the supervision of Jon Stamford. His postdoctoral work was with with Mark Wightman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was appointed as a Research Assistant Professor in Psychology at UNC in 2003. He joined the faculty at the University of Washington in 2004.

Research interests

The key focus of our lab is to more precisely define this role of dopamine neurotransmission in cognition and behavior, and to use this information to address how molecular processes that control this transmitter may alter behavior and lead to psychiatric disease. Our investigations use traditional behavioral paradigms such as operant behavior and classical conditioning as well neuroeconomic approaches to study decision making. One of the main tools of the lab is fast-scan cyclic voltammetry. This is a rapid electrochemical technique that can detect dopamine several times a second and chemically resolve it from other electroactive species. This technique has been particularly useful for elucidating the precise temporal relationship between released dopamine and behavior, as well as probing the dynamics of the system. We combine these recordings with behavioral procedures (food and drug self-administration, decision making and classical conditioning), neuropharmacology (systemic administration and site-specific intracranial microinjections), viral-mediated gene delivery, intracranial stimulation and computational modeling.

Selected publications

Excessive cocaine use results from decreased phasic dopamine signaling in the striatum
Willuhn I, Burgeno LM, Groblewski PA and Phillips PEM
Nature Neuroscience 17, 704-709 (2014)

Severe stress switches CRF action in the nucleus accumbens from appetitive to aversive
Lemos JC, Wanat MJ, Smith JS, Reyes BAS, Hollon NG, Van Bockstaele EJ, Chavkin C and Phillips PEM
Nature 490, 402-406 (2012)

Pavlovian valuation systems in learning and decision making
Clark JJ, Hollon NG and Phillips PEM
Current Opinion in Neurobiology 22, 10541061 (2012)

A selective role for dopamine in stimulus-reward learning
Flagel SB*, Clark JJ*, Robinson TE, Mayo L, Czuj A, Willuhn I, Akers CA, Clinton SM, Phillips PEM and Akil H
Nature 469, 53-57 (2011)

Chronic microsensors for longitudinal subsecond dopamine detection in behaving animals
Clark JJ*, Sandberg SG*, Wanat MJ, Gan JO, Horne EA, Hart AS, Parker JG, Akers CA, Willuhn I, Martinez V, Evans SB, Stella N and Phillips PEM
Nature Methods 7, 126-129 (2010)

Dissociable cost and benefit encoding of future rewards by mesolimbic dopamine
Gan JO*, Walton ME* and Phillips PEM
Nature Neuroscience 13, 25-27 (2010)

Subsecond dopamine release promotes cocaine seeking
Phillips PEM, Stuber GD, Heien MLAV, Wightman RM and Carelli RM
Nature 422, 614-618 (2003)

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