Genes, Development And Behavior
Department of Translational Neuroscience
Utrecht, The Netherlands

Roger Adan

Position: Professor of Molecular Pharmacology
Phone: +31 (0)88 75 68517
Phone secretariat: +31 (0)88 75 68810


A revolution is going on in neuroscience since the discovery of novel tools like opto- and chemogenetics. It is now possible to record and manipulate the activity of specific neurons and address the role of different neuronal subtypes for specific aspects of behavior. We apply these technologies to understand food-related decision making. Feeding is a natural behavior that is easily studied. In comparison to other behaviors, the neural circuits and molecules that are involved in feeding behavior are better known. Therefore we study feeding behavior to delineate further how genes and neural circuits affect behavior. We aim to contribute to the development of new therapeutic strategies to treat obesity, anorexia nervosa and other psychiatric disorders.




We aim at unraveling the molecular and neural pathways underlying behavior with a focus on eating disorders and obesity, but also on psychiatric disorders in general. A long term aim is to contribute to the implementation of chemogenetics for the treatment of psychiatric disease.

Experimental strategy:

Several animal models are used in which for instance anorectic behavior (including hyperactivity) is mimicked or in which animals become obese following exposure to palatable choice diets. To address the role of neurons for aspects of behavior classical and operant conditioning models are used to study impulsivity, loss of control and decision making. Optogenetics, DREADD technology, fiber photometry, rabies tracing and electrophysiology are applied to address the role of specific neural circuits on behavior. Using viral vector technology, specific subsets of neurons are genetically modified in order to record from them (fiber photometry), silence specific genes or block neurotransmission or control their activity (opto- and chmogenetics). Results from animal experiments are translated into clinical relevance by using a human genetics approach as well as by neuroimaging. DNA from eating disorders patients and epidemiological cohorts is available with extensive phenotypic information. This allows to determine genotype-phenotype relationships in humans.


1: Meye FJ, Trezza V, Vanderschuren LJ, Ramakers GM, Adan RA. Neutral antagonism at the cannabinoid 1 receptor: a safer treatment for obesity. Mol Psychiatry. 2013 Dec;18(12):1294-30

2: Pandit R, Omrani A, Luijendijk MC, de Vrind VA, Van Rozen AJ, Ophuis RJ, Garner K, Kallo I, Ghanem A, Liposits Z, Conzelmann KK, Vanderschuren LJ, la Fleur SE, Adan RA.  Melanocortin 3 Receptor Signaling in Midbrain Dopamine Neurons Increases the Motivation for Food Reward. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016 Feb 8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2016.19.

3: Adan RA. Mechanisms underlying current and future anti-obesity drugs. Trends Neurosci. 2013 Feb;36(2):133-40

4: Boender AJ, de Jong JW, Boekhoudt L, Luijendijk MC, van der Plasse G, Adan RA. Combined use of the canine adenovirus-2 and DREADD-technology to activate specific neural pathways in vivo. PLoS One. 2014 Apr 15;9(4):e95392.