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

Frank Meye

Position: Assistant Professor
Phone: (+31)(0)88 75 61234
Phone secretariat: (+31)(0)88 75 68810



Our research focuses on afflictions of the nervous system in which reward seeking plays an important role, such as eating disorders and drug addiction. These are prevalent problems that unfortunately can have grim outcomes for the patient, as treatment options are often inadequate.

A particularly pernicious feature of these diseases is their 'relapsing' nature. Patients can temporarily suppress their pathological behavior (e.g. drug abstinence, or reduced binge-eating), but unfortunately also tend to remain vulnerable to particular triggers in the environment, which often rekindle the maladaptive actions. Adverse events in particular can be potent re-initiators of reward-seeking behavior. Accordingly, reward-seeking in order to cope with stressful events plays a key role in perpetuating these psychiatric disorders.  

One of the main goals of the lab is to understand how adverse events manage to have such a strong influence on reward seeking. Specifically, we aim to address how aversive events reshape physiological processes of reward systems of the brain in such a way that it causes an increased inclination to seek out unhealthy rewards, like fattening foods or addictive drugs. We strive to then use these insights to devise intervention strategies to counteract dysfunctional circuit plasticity and consequent excessive reward seeking.

 Experimental strategy and key results:

 Guiding my research is the following trio of principles:

1.       Aversive events cause changes at specific synapses (contact points between nerve cells) within neural circuits (combinations of specifically wired neurons across brain regions).

2.       The importance of these synaptic changes can be gauged, using strategies to mimic or reverse/prevent them, evaluating the resultant impact this has on circuit function and specific behaviors.

3.       This overall approach can provide the basis of successful therapeutic strategies in humans.

In order to determine the function of mapped neural circuits, we primarily make use of electrophysiological approaches, complemented with optogenetics, chemogenetics and neural tracing tools. We also measure calcium signals using approaches like fiber photometry. With the aid of behavioral paradigms in rodents, we assess the importance of specific circuit plasticity in the context of reward-seeking behavior.

Recent key publications

Meye, F. J., Soiza-Reilly, M., Smit, T., Diana, M. A., Schwarz, M. K. & Mameli, M.  (2016). Shifted pallidal co-release of GABA and glutamate in habenula drives cocaine withdrawal and relapse. Nature Neuroscience, 19(8):1019-24.

Meye, F. J*., Valentinova*, K., Lecca, S*., Marion-Poll, L., Maroteaux, M. J., Musardo, S., Moutkine, I., Gardoni, F., Huganir, R., Georges, F. & Mameli, M. (2015). Cocaine-evoked negative symptoms require AMPA receptor trafficking in the lateral habenula. Nature Neuroscience, 18(3),376-8. [*=equal contribution]

Meye, F. J. & Adan, R. A. H. (2013). Feelings about food: the ventral tegmental area in food reward and emotional eating. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences 35(1), 31-40.

Meye, F. J., Lecca, S., Valentinova, K. & Mameli, M. (2013). Synaptic and cellular profile of neurons in the lateral habenula. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 16(7), 870.












Student Projects