Skip to main content
COVID-19 is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation.

Get the latest public health information from CDC:
Get the latest research information from NIH:

Profile Image

Senior Investigator

Charles R. Gerfen, Ph.D.

Building 35 Room 3A-1000
35 Convent Drive MSC 3726
Bethesda MD 20892-3726
Office: (301) 496-4341

Fax: (301) 402-8960

Dr. Gerfen received a B.A. from Amherst College and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. His doctoral research was on neural substrates of reward involving the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia. During a post-doctoral fellowship in the Laboratory of Max Cowan at the Salk Institute, he developed the PHA-L axonal tracing technique with Paul Sawchenko, which has been used in over 1000 papers. In 1983, Dr. Gerfen was recruited by Ed Evarts to the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at NIMH. He was tenured in 1988 and served as Chief of the Laboratory of Systems Neuroscience from 1995 to 2016. Dr. Gerfen is recognized as having established fundamental principles of the functional organization of the basal ganglia.

Dr. Gerfen studies the functional organization of the cerebral cortex and basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are involved in transforming activity in the cerebral cortex into directed behavior. Using neuroanatomical tracing techniques, he mapped the connections of the circuits of this system, characterizing the compartmental nature of the input-output organization of the striatum, which is the main nucleus of the basal ganglia. His work established that the D1 and D2 dopamine receptors are segregated into two main pathways within the basal ganglia circuits. This finding forms a cornerstone of the predominant model of neurologic disorders affected by diseases of the basal ganglia, including movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, chorea, and dystonia, and mental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression. Dr. Gerfen is a Co-Investigator on the Gene Expression Nervous System Atlas (GENSAT) project, with Nat Heintz at Rockefeller University. This project provides transgenic mouse lines to the neuroscience research community with neuron specific expression of Cre recombinase. Over 200 Cre-driver lines have been characterized with expression limited to specific neuron types or specific brain regions ( . Characterization of these lines is provided on the lab website: Current work is focused on using BAC-Cre transgenic mouse lines to study the functional organization of the cerebral cortex and basal ganglia.

Staff Image
  • Ronald Paletzki, RN, BSN, CCRP
    (301) 443-0711

  • 1) Hooks M, Papale AE, Paletzki M, Eastwood, BS, Couey JJ, Winnubst J, Chandrashekar J, Gerfen CR (2018)
  • Topographic precision in sensory and motor corticostriatal projections varies across cell type and cortical area
  • Nat Commun, 9(1), 4317
  • 2) Gerfen CR, Paletzki R, Heintz N (2013)
  • GENSAT BAC Cre-recombinase driver lines to study the functional organization of cerebral cortical and basal ganglia circuits
  • Neuron, 80(6), 1368-83
  • 3) Gerfen CR, Surmeier DJ (2011)
  • Modulation of striatal projection systems by dopamine
  • Annu Rev Neurosci, 34, 441-66
  • 4) Gong S, Doughty M, Harbaugh CR, Cummins A, Hatten ME, Heintz N, Gerfen CR (2007)
  • Targeting Cre recombinase to specific neuron populations with bacterial artificial chromosome constructs
  • J Neurosci, 27(37), 9817-23
  • 5) Gerfen CR, Miyachi S, Paletzki R, Brown P (2002)
  • D1 dopamine receptor supersensitivity in the dopamine-depleted striatum results from a switch in the regulation of ERK1/2/MAP kinase
  • J Neurosci, 22(12), 5042-54
  • 6) Gerfen CR, Miyachi S, Paletzki R, Brown P (2002)
  • D1 Dopamine receptor supersensitivity in the dopamine-depleted striatum results from a switch in the regulation of ERK1/2/MAP Kinase
  • J Neuroscience, 22, 5042-5054
  • 7) Keefe KA, Gerfen CR (1999)
  • Local infusion of the AMPA/kainate receptor antagonist CNQX does not block D1 dopamine receptor-mediated increases in immediate early gene expression in the dopamine-depleted striatum.
  • Neuroscience, 89, 491-504
  • 8) Steiner H, Gerfen CR (1998)
  • Enkephalin regulates acute D2 dopamine receptor antagonist-induced immediate-early gene expression in striatal neurons.
  • Neuroscience, 88, 795-810
  • 9) Berke JD, Paletzki RF, Aronson GJ, Hyman SE, Gerfen CR (1998)
  • A complex program of striatal gene expression induced by dopaminergic stimulation
  • J Neuroscience, 18, 5301-5310
  • 10) Steiner H, Gerfen CR (1996)
  • Dynorphin regulates D1 dopamine receptor-mediated responses in the striatum: relative contributions of pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms in dorsal and ventral striatum demonstrated by altered immediate-early gene induction
  • J. Comparative Neurology, 376, 530-41
  • 11) Gerfen CR, KA Keefe, EB Gauda (1995)
  • D1 and D2 dopamine receptor function in the striatum: Co-activation of D1- and D2-dopamine receptors on separate populations of neurons results in potentiated immediate early gene response in D1-containing neurons.
  • J. Neuroscience, 15, 8167-8176
  • 12) Gerfen, CR et al (1990)
  • D1 and D2 dopamine receptor mediated regulation of gene expression in striatonigral and striatopallidal pathways
  • Science, 250, 1429-1432
View Pubmed Publication