Principal Investigator


The Heller Lab studies the epigenetic mechanisms that underlie aberrant neuronal function and behavior in neuropsychiatric disease. To approach this problem, we apply preclinical mouse paradigms of drug addiction and depression to determine functionally relevant histone modifications. Because the syndromes of addiction and depression persist long after cessation of the harmful experience, stable epigenetic remodeling is an attractive mechanism for such long-lasting effects and presents an intriguing target for therapeutic intervention. We use high-throughput sequencing and bioinformatic approaches, including machine learning, to identify genes at which drug- or stress-regulation of the epigenome correlates with changes in gene expression. Using novel epigenetic editing tools, we then target individual modifications and examine their causal relevance to transcription and behavior. This ‘bottom-up’ approach allows direct elucidation of the causal relevance of epigenetic remodeling in the brain.

Latest News

Jan 02
Shuo Zhang: Paper Published

Postdoctoral Fellow Shuo Zhang published a paper, titled “Cell-type-specific whole-genome landscape of ΔFOSB binding in nucleus accumbens after chronic cocaine exposure,” in Biological Psychiatry. Congratulations, Shuo!

This paper was published in collaboration with the Nestler Lab.

View more here

Dec 30
Heller Lab is Hiring – New project on CDK5

Dec 28
Heller Lab granted new R01 award from NIMH

Hellerlab granted a new R01 award from NIMH! And we are hiring! This project will study the role of Cdk5 in stress and addiction in both males and females using epigenetic editing and ICuRuS.

Dr. Heller is a faculty leader of the Trainee Advocacy Alliance (TAA), a collaborative group of Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) graduate students, Biomedical Postdoctoral Program (BPP) post-docs, and Penn faculty members who are committed to creating, nurturing, and maintaining a Penn biomedical research community that embodies inclusivity, diversity, and equity.

View more information

Meet Our Collaborators