Donita L. Robinson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor; Education and Outreach Director, Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies


Donita Robinson, Ph.D.


Phone: (919) 966-9178




B.A. in Psychology, University of Texas at Austin
M.A. in Biological Psychology, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
Ph.D. in Neuroscience, University of Texas at Austin
Postdoctoral fellowship in Analytical Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Summary Statement:

Dr. Robinson’s research explores the neurodynamics of reinforcement pathways in the brain by using animal models of motivated behavior. Her research goals are to understand the interplay of corticostriatal and mesostriatal circuits involved in drug- and food-motivated behavior, adolescent vulnerability to addiction, and consequences of drug exposure, in order to identify novel pharmacological and behavioral treatment strategies. Dr. Robinson examines corticostriatal circuitry underlying alcohol seeking and drinking by recording real-time neuronal firing and dopamine release while rats self-administer alcohol. She investigates “habit” circuitry during alcohol-seeking behavior as well as conditioned responses to alcohol cues, both of which may contribute to resistance to behavioral change in alcohol use disorders. She collaborates with Dr. Charlotte Boettiger (UNC Psychology) in translational research to study mechanisms of attention bias to alcohol cues. She works with Drs. Linda Spear (Binghamton University) and Wendy Foulds Mathes to study the development of reinforcement circuitry during adolescence and how it is impacted by alcohol exposure, focusing on social preference/anxiety, reward learning, dopamine release and gene expression. Dr. Robinson, along with Drs. Cynthia Bulik and Foulds Mathes, examines dopamine release and gene expression in rats trained to binge eat during adolescence or adulthood. This work encompasses initiation and maintenance of binge eating of fatty, sugary food, as well as abstinence and reinstatement (a model of “relapse” binge eating). In collaboration with Drs. Josephine Johns and Sheryl Moy, Dr. Robinson investigates how cocaine alters maternal dopamine transmission contributes to subsequent maternal behavior and infant neglect, as well as acute and persistent consequences on offspring.

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