Christoph Kellendonk, PhD

  • Associate Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics in Psychiatry
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Dr. Kellendonk obtained his PhD in the laboratory of Günther Schütz at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg where he studied the function of the glucocorticoid receptor. He then joined Eric Kandel's laboratory at Columbia University in New York as a post-doctoral research fellow where he became interested in using mouse genetics to study neuropsychiatric disorders. Since 2008 Dr. Kellendonk is an independent investigator in the Departments of Pharmacology and Psychiatry at Columbia University.

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics in Psychiatry


  • Male


The Kellendonk laboratory uses mouse genetic tools in an effort to understand the biology that underlies cognitive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is characterized by three symptom clusters: the cognitive, negative and positive symptoms. While the positive symptoms – which include disordered thought processes, hallucinations and delusions – are the most characteristic feature of the disorder, such symptoms are more difficult to model in the mouse. In contrast, cognitive and negative symptoms of the disorder – including deficits in working memory and motivation – have behavioral readouts in mice that are more homologous to humans. Cognitive and negative symptoms are poorly understood, difficult to treat and their severities are a better predictor for the long-term prognosis of patients than the degree of positive symptoms.

Our approach uses observations made in patients with schizophrenia (e.g. with brain imaging) and then seeks to “model” these observations as closely as possible in the mouse. This allows for establishing causality between a specific brain alteration and changes in behavior. Using this approach we hope to achieve three main goals:

1) To better understand the basic neuronal mechanisms that support cognitive and motivated behaviors

2) To inspire new studies in humans based on observations made in the mouse

3) To identify new treatment strategies for enhancing cognition and motivation

Research Interests

  • Models of Psychiatric Disorders
  • Neurobiology of Disease
  • Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
  • Neurogenetics

Selected Publications

Benoit L., Holt. E., Pisano L., Fusi S., Harris A.Z, Canetta S., Kellendonk. C. Adolescent thalamic inhibition leads to long-lasting impairments in prefrontal cortex function (2022) Nature Neuroscience 10.1038/s41593-022-01072-y 


E.F. Gallo, J. Greenwald, E. Teboul, K. Martyniuk, N. Zarrelli, Y. Li, J.A. Javitch, P. Balsam, C. Kellendonk (2021) Dopamine D2 receptors modulate the cholinergic pause and inhibitory learning Mol 


Donthamsetti P., Gallo E.F., Buck D.C., Stahl E.L., Zhu Y., Lane R.L., Bohn L.M., Neve K.A., Kellendonk C., Javitch J.A. (2020) Arrestin recruitment to dopamine D2 receptor mediates locomotion but not incentive motivation Molecular Psychiatry 25(9):2086-2100 


Gallo E.F., Meszaros J., Sherman J.D., Chohan M.O., Teboul E., Choi C.S., Moore H., Javitch J.A., Kellendonk C. (2018) Accumbens Dopamine D2 Receptors increase motivation by decreasing inhibitory transmission to the ventral pallidum Nature Communications 14;9(1):1086.  


Bolkan S., Stujenske J.M., Parnaudeau S., Spellman T.J, Rauffenbart C., Abbas A., Harris A.Z., Gordon J.A., Kellendonk C. (2017) Thalamic projections sustain prefrontal activity during working memory maintenance Nature Neuroscience doi:10.1038/nn.4568 


Carvalho Poyraz F., Holzner E., Bailey M.R., Meszaros J., Kenney L., Kheirbek M.A., Balsam P.D., Kellendonk C. (2016) Decreasing striato-pallidal pathway function enhances motivation by energizing the initiation of goal directed action J. Neuroscience 36(22):5988-6001 


S. Canetta, S. Bolkan, N. Padilla-Coreano, L.J. Song, R. Sahn, N.L. Harrison, J.A. Gordon, A. Brown, C. Kellendonk (2016) Maternal immune activation leads to selective functional deficits in offspring parvalbumin interneurons. Molecular Psychiatry 21(7):956-68 


Cazorla M, de Carvalho FD, Chohan MO, Shegda M, Chuhma N, Rayport S, Ahmari SE, Moore H, Kellendonk C. (2014) Dopamine D2 receptors regulate the anatomical and functional balance of basal ganglia circuitry. Neuron. 81:153-164. 


Parnaudeau S, O'Neill PK, Bolkan SS, Ward RD, Abbas AI, Roth BL, Balsam PD, Gordon JA, Kellendonk C. (2013) Inhibition of mediodorsal thalamus disrupts thalamofrontal connectivity and cognition. Neuron. 77:1151-1162.