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Aryn Gittis - Carnegie Mellon University. Pittsburgh, PA, US

Aryn Gittis

Professor | Carnegie Mellon University


Aryn Gittis studies neural circuits in a multifunctional brain region that plays a role in the regulation of movement, learning, and reward.


Aryn Gittis received her Ph.D. from UCSD in 2008 where she studied the vestibular system in the lab of Sascha du Lac. From 2008-2012 she was a postdoc with Anatol Kreitzer at the Gladstone Institute/UCSF where she began her studies of basal ganglia circuitry and its plasticity in disease. She started her lab at CMU in 2012 in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition and is now an Associate Professor.

The Gittis lab studies the neural basis of motor control in health and disease. Using mouse models of Parkinson’s disease, our lab has identified cellular nodes where optogenetic interventions promote long-lasting recovery of movement in the disease state. Current studies seek to understand the broader motor circuits in which these nodes function, using a combination of behavior, electrophysiology, and anatomical approaches. We are also innovating new experimental models for the study of network compensation during progressive dopamine loss, and how these compensatory mechanisms preserve, or possible paradoxically exacerbate symptoms of movement disorders.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Movement Disorders




Neural Circuits

Media Appearances (5)

Basal Ganglia Pathway Key to Learning, Not Motor Control

Neuroscience News  online


In a paper published in Neuron, Aryn Gittis and colleagues present new information about a neural pathway in the basal ganglia, a part of the brain important for skill learning, habit formation and motor control. The paper contradicts the model that has guided researchers’ understanding of motor learning for 30 years.

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Neuroscientists Gain New Understanding of Neural Pathway

Carnegie Mellon University News  online


In a paper published in Neuron(opens in new window), Aryn Gittis(opens in new window) and colleagues present new information about a neural pathway in the basal ganglia, a part of the brain important for skill learning, habit formation and motor control. The paper contradicts the model that has guided researchers’ understanding of motor learning for 30 years.

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Research shows promising results for Parkinson's disease treatment

EurekAlert!  online


Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have found a way to make deep brain stimulation (DBS) more precise, resulting in therapeutic effects that outlast what is currently available. The work, led by Aryn Gittis and colleagues in CMU’s Gittis Lab, will significantly advance the study of Parkinson’s disease.

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New Technique Isolates Brain Cells Associated With Parkinson's Disease

Carnegie Mellon University News  online


In this case, the research team focused on parvalbumin-expressing (PV+) neurons, which have been implicated in Parkinson's disease by the lab of Aryn Gittis, associate professor of biological sciences. Mice with Parkinson's symptoms regain motor control and their ability to run around when these cells are stimulated.

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Carnegie Mellon's Aryn Gittis named finalist for Science & PINS Prize

EurekAlert!  online


Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientist Aryn Gittis was named a finalist for the Science & PINS Prize for Neuromodulation for her discovery of new therapeutic targets for Parkinson's disease.

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Neuroscientists Talk Shop: Aryn Gittis on better deep brain stimulation


#24: Aryn Gittis – Optogenetically inspired DBS for Parkinson's Disease Episode 240 -- Aryn Gittis PhD


Industry Expertise (3)

Health and Wellness



Accomplishments (1)

Eberly Family Career Development Endowed Chair in Biological Sciences (professional)


Education (2)

Gladstone Institute for Neurological Disease: Postdoctoral Appointment 2012

University of California, San Diego: Ph.D. 2008

Patents (1)

Neuromodulation Using Electrical Stimulation



Provided herein is method of modulating a plurality of neurons in a patient, by stimulating an area of the patient's central nervous system. The stimulation includes alternating first periods when a plurality of pulses of electrical stimulation are delivered and second periods when no pulses of electrical stimulation are delivered. The first periods have a duration of about 100 to about 400 ms and the second periods have a duration of about 500 ms to about 1900 ms. The pulses have a frequency of about 100 Hz to about 250 Hz.

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Articles (5)

DAT and TH expression marks human Parkinson’s disease in peripheral immune cells

npj Parkinson's Disease

2022 Parkinson’s disease (PD) is marked by a loss of dopamine neurons, decreased dopamine transporter (DAT) and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) expression. However, this validation approach cannot be used for diagnostic, drug effectiveness or investigational purposes in human patients because midbrain tissue is accessible postmortem. PD pathology affects both the central nervous and peripheral immune systems.

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Stressing the Importance of Cholinergic Interneurons in Striatal Function

Movement disorders: official journal of the Movement Disorder Society

2022 When pathological stressors threaten cellular health and function, the integrated stress response (ISR) may be recruited as a rescue response. An evolutionarily conserved signaling pathway, the ISR broadly dampens protein synthesis while also triggering translation of select transcription factors, effectively serving as a translational reset button once stressors have set the proteome into disequilibrium1. Perhaps not surprisingly, activation of the ISR occurs in a variety of neuropathologies, including movement disorders such as dystonia2.

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Population-specific neuromodulation prolongs therapeutic benefits of deep brain stimulation


2021 Deep-brain stimulation as presently used in clinical settings, for example, to treat Parkinson’s disease, does not differentiate between different neural circuitries. Considerable improvements could thus be achieved with selective stimulation that targets particular neuronal populations. Spix et al. used optogenetics to develop a clever electrical stimulation protocol that enhances cell-type specificity (see the Perspective by Haas).

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Cell Type-Specific Oxidative Stress Genomic Signatures in the Globus Pallidus of Dopamine-Depleted Mice

Journal of Neuroscience

2020 Neuron subtype dysfunction is a key contributor to neurologic disease circuits, but identifying associated gene regulatory pathways is complicated by the molecular complexity of the brain. For example, parvalbumin-expressing (PV+) neurons in the external globus pallidus (GPe) are critically involved in the motor deficits of dopamine-depleted mouse models of Parkinson's disease, where cell type-specific optogenetic stimulation of PV+ neurons over other neuron populations rescues locomotion. Despite the distinct roles these cell types play in the neural circuit, the molecular correlates remain unknown because of the difficulty of isolating rare neuron subtypes.

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Delta oscillations are a robust biomarker of dopamine depletion severity and motor dysfunction in awake mice

Journal of Neurophysiology

2020 Delta oscillations (0.5–4 Hz) are a robust feature of basal ganglia pathophysiology in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in relationship to tremor, but their relationship to other parkinsonian symptoms has not been investigated. While delta oscillations have been observed in mouse models of PD, they have only been investigated in anesthetized animals, suggesting that the oscillations may be an anesthesia artifact and limiting the ability to relate them to motor symptoms.

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