Assistant Professor Psychology


Postdoctoral Fellow - University at Buffalo, the State University of New York, Clinical Research Institute on Addiction

Postdoctoral Fellow - National Institutes on Drug Abuse, Baltimore MD

Ph.D., Neuroscience – University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

B.A., Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Research Interests

In vivo monitoring, calcium imaging, genetic targeting of neural circuits, chemogenetics, optogenetics, neural substrates of reward and addiction.

If you are interested in applying to work with Dr. Wakabayashi, please email:

Current research

The focus of our current work is understanding the fundamental processes in the brain underpinning reward-seeking behavior, and how these systems can become hijacked by drugs of abuse in addiction and alcoholism. In the Neurocircuitry of Motivated Behavior Laboratory, we conceptualize this question by asking how different neural circuits become co-opted towards the pursuit of drugs.

In particular, we are interested in understanding how nutrient-sensing neurons that normally control diverse processes like food intake, sleep wakefulness and stress can contribute to pathological seeking of drugs, alcohol, and food. We are also interested in determining how these and other neural circuits integrate the rapid neurobiological, physiological and psychological effects of drugs, underpinning processes that lead to addiction.

To explore these questions, we integrate preclinical models of addiction, genetic targeting, and in vivo monitoring approaches to manipulate and observe specific neural circuits regulating motivated behavior. Ultimately, gaining insight into these processes that underlie food- and drug-seeking behavior is a critical component of addressing major public health issues such as substance use disorders and obesity.

Trainees in the Neurocircuitry of Motivated Behavior Laboratory gain expertise in a wide range of biological psychology and neuroscience approaches, including in vivo monitoring (calcium imaging, electrochemical biosensors), chemogenetics (Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs - DREADDs), optogenetics, immunohistochemistry, and preclinical behavior models (self-administration).

Representative publications:

Full publication list:

1. Wakabayashi KT, Feja M, Baindur AN, Bruno MJ, Bhimani RV, Park J, Hausknecht K, Shen RY, Haj-Dahmane S, Bass CE. Chemogenetic activation of ventral tegmental area GABA neurons, but not mesoaccumbal GABA terminals, disrupts responding to reward-predictive cues. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019 Jan;44(2):372-380. doi: 10.1038/s41386-018-0097-6. Epub 2018 May 22. PubMed PMID: 29875446; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6300533.

2. Wakabayashi KT, Bruno MJ, Bass CE, Park J. Application of fast-scan cyclic voltammetry for the in vivo characterization of optically evoked dopamine in the olfactory tubercle of the rat brain. Analyst. 2016 Jun 21;141(12):3746-55. doi: 10.1039/c6an00196c. Epub 2016 Apr 11. PubMed PMID: 27063845.

3. Wakabayashi KT, Spekterman L, Kiyatkin EA. Experience-dependent escalation of glucose drinking and the development of glucose preference over fructose - association with glucose entry into the brain. Eur J Neurosci. 2016 Jun;43(11):1422-30. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13137. Epub 2016 Jan 5. PubMed PMID: 26613356; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4884167.

4. Wakabayashi KT, Kiyatkin EA. Central and peripheral contributions to dynamic changes in nucleus accumbens glucose induced by intravenous cocaine. Front Neurosci. 2015;9:42. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2015.00042. eCollection 2015. PubMed PMID: 25729349; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4325903.

5. Wakabayashi KT, Kiyatkin EA. Critical role of peripheral drug actions in experience-dependent changes in nucleus accumbens glutamate release induced by intravenous cocaine. J Neurochem. 2014 Mar;128(5):672-85. doi: 10.1111/jnc.12472. Epub 2013 Oct 28. PubMed PMID: 24111505; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4528614.

6. Wakabayashi KT, Weiss MJ, Pickup KN, Robinson TE. Rats markedly escalate their intake and show a persistent susceptibility to reinstatement only when cocaine is injected rapidly. J Neurosci. 2010 Aug 25;30(34):11346-55. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2524-10.2010. PubMed PMID: 20739555; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2937161.