Shelly B. Flagel, Ph.D.

Research Professor, Michigan Neuroscience Institute
Professor, Department of Psychiatry

1024 MBNI
205 Zina Pitcher Place
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5720


Areas of Interest

The Flagel lab studies the genetic, environmental and neurobiological factors that contribute to individual differences in reward learning and susceptibility to mental illness, including addiction. Specifically, they focus on the psychological mechanisms that underlie and influence appetitive Pavlovian learning and the neural circuitry involved in these processes.

Their ultimate goal is to identify novel pharmacological targets for the treatment of addiction and other mental illnesses.

The lab combines behavioral, pharmacological, molecular and chemogenetic tools to better understand the genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors that contribute to an individual’s responsiveness to rewards and susceptibility to mental illness.
Examples of current research include:

  • Studying the role of the brain chemical dopamine
  • Understanding how neural circuitry systems called cortico-thalamo-striatal pathways influence appetitive Pavlovian learning
  • Describing how the intersection of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland might contribute to individual differences in emotionality and response to stressful events.

Honors & Awards

In 2020, Flagel received the A.E. Bennett Basic Research Award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry (SOBP), which is granted annually to recognize outstanding contributions from young investigators in the field.

Flagel won the University of Michigan’s 2019 Endowment for the Basic Sciences Teaching Award

Flagel collaborated with the initiative Health in Our Hands and students from the U-M School of Public on a video to be embedded into a new addiction unit to expose young students to the work and careers of scientists.

Published Articles or Reviews

Mapping sign-tracking and goal-tracking onto human behaviors.
Colaizzi JM, Flagel SB, Joyner MA, Gearhardt AN, Stewart JL, Paulus MP. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2020 Apr;111:84-94. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.01.018. Epub 2020 Jan 20. Review.

The paraventricular thalamus is a critical mediator of top-down control of cue-motivated behavior in rats.
Campus P, Covelo IR, Kim Y, Parsegian A, Kuhn BN, Lopez SA, Neumaier JF, Ferguson SM, Solberg Woods LC, Sarter M, Flagel SB. Elife. 2019 Sep 10;8. pii: e49041. doi: 10.7554/eLife.49041.

Editorial: bridging the gap with computational and translational psychopharmacology.
Flagel SB, Gordon JA, Paulus MP. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2019 Aug;236(8):2291-2294. doi: 10.1007/s00213-019-05320-1. Epub 2019 Jul 8. No abstract available.

Incentive salience attribution, "sensation-seeking" and "novelty-seeking" are independent traits in a large sample of male and female heterogeneous stock rats.
Hughson AR, Horvath AP, Holl K, Palmer AA, Solberg Woods LC, Robinson TE, Flagel SB. Sci Rep. 2019 Feb 20;9(1):2351. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-39519-1.

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