​Michael Beckstead, Ph.D.


​Postdoctoral Fellowship 2002-2008,  ​Vollum Institute, Advisor: John T. Williams

PhD Pharmacology 2002, ​​Wake Forest University

​BS Phartmacy 1997, ​Ohio Northern University

​Research Overview

Near the base of the brain lies a group of neurons that synthesize the chemical dopamine and release it in distinct brain regions. Dopamine pathways are necessary for both the initiation of movement and the positive perception of rewards (like getting a bowl of ice cream). When this system breaks down, it can produce movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease, as well as pathological alterations in mood such as depression. In contrast, too much dopamine can lead to a slew of neuropsychiatric disorders including addiction, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The reason many of these disorders have poor treatment options is because we lack a basic understanding of how communication between dopamine neurons and other cells in the brain goes awry when these diseases strike. Furthermore, aging is the single most important risk factor for many neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, and we also lack information on how the function of single neurons can decline with age.

In the Beckstead lab, we study the communication between dopamine neurons and other cell types in the context of motivated behavior and dopamine-related diseases. Only after gaining a detailed understanding of how neuron-to-neuron communication occurs, under both normal and pathological conditions, will we be able to target these processes to better treat neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. Further, a better understanding of how single neurons in the brain age will also inform treatment options in the very earliest stages of neurodegenerative diseases, before symptoms become debilitating.

​Beckstead Lab

Michael Beckstead, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

​Sergio Dominguez Lopez


​Erica Marxen

Ph.D. ​Student

​Rebecca Howell, MD.

​Ph.D. ​Student

​Marta Trzeciak

​Research Technician

​Andrea Markiewicz

​​Research Technician

​Michael Thellmann

​​Research Technician


Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation

​Chapman Building, Room W206

Oklahoma City OK 73104

​Phone: ​(405) ​271-7574