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William Howe

Assistant Professor
  • Ph.D. University of Michigan
Life Science I Facility, Room 215 and Room 228 (Lab)
970 Washington St SW,
Blacksburg, VA 24061


Dr. Howe joined the School of Neuroscience in the Fall of 2019.  His work is broadly focused on identifying neurobiological mechanisms that underlie fundamental aspects of behavior and may represent loci of dysfunction in neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.  He completed his PhD at the University of Michigan under the guidance of Martin Sarter (  After a stint in drug development at Pfizer, Dr. Howe moved to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai where he completed his post-doctoral training in the lab of Paul Kenny (


Fundamental functions like reward learning, motivation, and executive control support complex behaviors that are critical for survival. Dysregulation of the neural machinery controlling these functions may underlie many of the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. The overarching goal of research in my lab is to identify shared neurobiological mechanisms that support these functions and may serve as targets for novel therapeutics. Research in the laboratory employs a multidisciplinary approach, with a particular emphasis on the capacity of brain orexin, cholinergic, and dopaminergic systems to modulate neural activity in the brain circuits upon which these functions depend.  On-going projects in the lab utilize optical tools for measuring neural activity in genetically defined populations of neurons and chemical neurotransmission, complex behavioral assays, pharmacology, optogenetics, as well as viral tools to manipulate gene expression. 

Recent Publications

  • Duncan, A., Heyer, M., Ishikawa, M., Caligiuri, S., Liu, X., Chen, Z., di Bonaventura, M., Howe, W., Bali, P., Fillinger, C., Elayouby, K., Ables, J., Williams, M., O’Connor, R., Wang, Z., Lu, Q., Kamenecka, T., Ma’ayan, A., O’Neill, H., Ibanez-Tallon, I., Geurts, A., Kenny, P. ‘TCF 712 links nicotine addiction to diabetes.’ Nature, in press
  • Gritton, H.*, Howe, W.*, Romano, M.*, DiFeliceantonio, A., Kramer, M., Saligrama, V., Bucklin, M., Zemel, D., Han, X. ‘Unique contributions of parvalbumin and cholinergic interneurons in organizing striatal networks during movement. Nature Neuroscience, 2019. * equal contribution.
  • Howe, W., Kenny, P. ‘Drug addiction: Mechanisms of nicotine dependence unmasked by gene editing’. Current Biology, 2018.
  • Howe, W.  Kenny, P. ‘Burst firing sets the stage for depression’. Nature, 2018
  • Howe, W. Brooks, J., Tierney, P., Pang, J., Rossi, A., Young, D., Dlugolenski, K., Guillmette, E., Roy, M., Hales, K., Kozak R. ‘a5 nAChR modulation of the prefrontal cortex makes attention resilient’. Brain Structure and Function, 2018.
  • Howe, W.*, Gritton, H.*, Lusk, N., Roberts, E., Hetrick, V., Berke, J., Sarter, M. ‘Acetylcholine release in prefrontal cortex promotes gamma oscillations and theta-gamma coupling during cue detection’ Journal of Neuroscience, 2017. * equal contribution.
  • A full list of Dr. Howe’s publications can be found here:  

For a full list of Dr. Howe's Publications, please visit PubMed