A photo of Elliott Robinson.

Member, Division of Experimental Hematology & Cancer Biology

Cancer Biology and Neural Tumors Program

Assistant Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics


Biography & Affiliation


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).

Research Interests

Neurofibromatosis type 1; systems neuroscience; gene therapy; electrophysiology

Academic Affiliation

Assistant Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics

Research Divisions

Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology


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.


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. Journal of 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.

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.

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.

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.

Dopaminergic dysfunction in neurodevelopmental disorders: recent advances and synergistic technologies to aid basic research. Robinson, JE; Gradinaru, V. Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2018; 48:17-29.

Deep tissue optical focusing and optogenetic modulation with time-reversed ultrasonically encoded light. Ruan, H; Brake, J; Robinson, JE; Liu, Y; Jang, M; Xiao, C; Zhou, C; Gradinaru, V; Yang, C. Science advances. 2017; 3.

Dorsal Raphe Dopamine Neurons Modulate Arousal and Promote Wakefulness by Salient Stimuli. Cho, JR; Treweek, JB; Robinson, JE; Xiao, C; Bremner, LR; Greenbaum, A; Gradinaru, V. Neuron. 2017; 94:1205-1219.e8.

Prefrontal cortex output circuits guide reward seeking through divergent cue encoding. Otis, JM; Namboodiri, VM K; Matan, AM; Voets, ES; Mohorn, EP; Kosyk, O; McHenry, JA; Robinson, JE; Resendez, SL; Rossi, MA; et al. Nature: New biology. 2017; 543:103-107.

Hormonal gain control of a medial preoptic area social reward circuit. McHenry, JA; Otis, JM; Rossi, MA; Robinson, JE; Kosyk, O; Miller, NW; McElligott, ZA; Budygin, EA; Rubinow, DR; Stuber, GD. Nature Neuroscience. 2017; 20:449-458.