A photo of Elliott Robinson.

J. Elliott Robinson, MD, PhD

  • Member, Division of Experimental Hematology & Cancer Biology
  • Cancer Biology and Neural Tumors Program
  • Assistant Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



I am a neurobiologist interested in the cognitive symptoms of neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and other Rasopathies, which involve altered cell signaling by the Ras family of proteins. My lab investigates the structure and function of neural circuits involved in reward, motivation and attention in mouse models of NF1 using cutting-edge systems neuroscience technologies. These technologies include genetically encoded calcium and neurotransmitter sensors, optogenetics, patch clamp electrophysiology and viral vector-based circuit mapping techniques. Additionally, I am working to develop systemic adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapies to restore normal brain function in NF1 and other Rasopathies. These efforts and future research plans are shaped by my strong interest in improving children's lives through translational neuroscience.

I received my bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 2007, followed by my MD and PhD from the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016. I was a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Viviana Gradinaru at Caltech from 2016-2020, where I studied dopaminergic circuit dysfunction in NF1. I joined the Division of Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology in 2020.

I am honored to be a Simons Foundation Bridge to Independence Awardee (2019). Previously, I received the Children's Tumor Foundation’s Young Investigator Award (2016), and I am a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society (2016).

PhD: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, 2014.

MD: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, 2016.

Post-Doctoral: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.

Services and Specialties

Cancer and Blood Diseases, Cancer Blood Disease Institute


Neurofibromatosis type 1; systems neuroscience; gene therapy; electrophysiology

Research Areas

Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology



Ventral striatum dopamine release encodes unique properties of visual stimuli in mice. Gonzalez, LS; Fisher, AA; D'souza, SP; Cotella, EM; Lang, RA; Robinson, JE. eLife. 2023; 12:e85064.


Optical dopamine monitoring with dLight1 reveals mesolimbic phenotypes in a mouse model of neurofibromatosis type 1. Robinson, JE; Coughlin, GM; Hori, AM; Cho, JR; Mackey, ED; Turan, Z; Patriarchi, T; Tian, L; Gradinaru, V. eLife. 2019; 8:e48983.

Light-guided sectioning for precise in situ localization and tissue interface analysis for brain-implanted optical fibers and GRIN lenses. Kahan, A; Greenbaum, A; Jang, MJ; Robinson, JE; Cho, JR; Chen, X; Kassraian, P; Wagenaar, DA; Gradinaru, V. Cell Reports. 2021; 36:109744.

Dorsal Raphe Dopamine Neurons Signal Motivational Salience Dependent on Internal State, Expectation, and Behavioral Context. Cho, JR; Chen, X; Kahan, A; Robinson, JE; Wagenaar, DA; Gradinaru, V. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2021; 41:2645-2655.

Interferometric speckle visibility spectroscopy (ISVS) for human cerebral blood flow monitoring. Xu, J; Jahromi, AK; Brake, J; Robinson, JE; Yang, C. APL Photonics. 2020; 5:126102.

Prepronociceptin-Expressing Neurons in the Extended Amygdala Encode and Promote Rapid Arousal Responses to Motivationally Salient Stimuli. Rodriguez-Romaguera, J; Ung, RL; Nomura, H; Otis, JM; Basiri, ML; Namboodiri, VM K; Zhu, X; Robinson, JE; van den Munkhof, HE; McHenry, JA; et al. Cell Reports. 2020; 33:108362.

Machine learning-guided channelrhodopsin engineering enables minimally invasive optogenetics. Bedbrook, CN; Yang, KK; Robinson, JE; Mackey, ED; Gradinaru, V; Arnold, FH. Nature Methods. 2019; 16:1176-1184.