Karla Kaun Assistant Professor of Neuroscience

I'm interested in understanding the genetic, molecular and neural mechanisms underlying reward. I became interested in addiction during my post-doctoral training with Dr. Ulrike Heberlein at UCSF and HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus. My lab is currently developing new models to study memory for alcohol intoxication, mapping circuits for aversive and appetitive memories of alcohol, and understanding the molecular mechanisms within these circuits that affect neuronal plasticity and function.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

scholarly work

Aso Y, Sitaraman D, Ichinose T, Kaun KR, Vogt K, Belliart-Geurin G, Placaise PY, Robie AA, Yamagata N, Schnaitmann C, Rowell WJ, JOhnston RM, Ngo TT, Chen N Korff W, Nitabach MN, Heberlein U, Preat T, Branson KM, Tanimoto H, Rubin GM (2014) Mushroom body output neurons encode valence and guide memory-based action selection in Drosophila. eLife 3: e04580.

Azanchi, R‡, Kaun, K.R.‡, Heberlein, U. (2013) Competing dopaminergic responses determine behavioral choice in Drosophila. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 110: 21153-8. ‡ These authors contributed equally to this work

Shohat-Ophir, G., Kaun, K.R., Azanchi, R., Mohammed, H., Heberlein, U. (2012) Sexual deprivation increases ethanol intake in Drosophila. Science, 335, 1351-5.

Kaun, K.R.‡, Devineni, A.V.‡, Heberlein, U. (2012) Drosophila as a model to study drug addiction (Review article). Human Genetics 131, 959-75. ‡These authors contributed equally to this work.

Kaun, K.R., Azanchi, R., Maung, Z., Hirsh, J. and Heberlein, U. (2011) A Drosophila model for alcohol reward. Nature Neuroscience, 14, 612-9.

research overview

My lab uses the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster to investigate the neural substrates of drug reward at the molecular and cellular level by mapping areas in the fly brain that regulate alcohol reward, and uncovering genes and pathways never-before implicated in memory of alcohol reward.

research statement

The goal of my research program is to understand the molecular and neural mechanisms underlying drug addiction. I use the powerful molecular and genetic tools available in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to investigate the neural substrates of drug reward at the molecular and cellular level. A compact genome, tiny brain, and impressive toolbox of sophisticated neurogenetic tools make the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, a prime model to understand the neural substrate of behavior. Drosophila show remarkably long-lasting memories for a cue associated with an intoxicating dose of alcohol. In my lab, we investigate the neural circuitry and associated molecular mechanisms within the fly brain that regulate this memory. This interdisciplinary approach, which combines behavioural neuroscience, genetics, neuropharmacology and molecular biology, has the potential to contribute novel mechanisms that regulate memories associated with drug experience.

funded research

RI-INBRE Early Career Development Award 2P20GM103430: The role of Notch signaling in alcohol reward memory

Smith Family Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research: Neuro-molecular mechanisms of alcholism

Rhode Island Foundation Medical Research Fund 20144133