Research and activities of the Neurobiology of Obesity - Alessandro Furlan group

In our lab we use transcriptomics, circuit-tracing methods and functional neural manipulation (i.e. opto- and chemo genetics) to identify and characterize the central and peripheral circuits through which the brain and the organs “talk”. Our goal is to understand how the brain and the body work together to regulate critical physiological processes, with a focus on weight regulation and obesity (see schematic).

Schematic illustration of the Furlan Lab's research direction.
Schematic of the Furlan Lab research approach. Legend: AAV, adeno-associated virus. Photo: Alessandro Furlan

Obesity is one of the most common metabolic diseases in the world, becoming increasingly more common in both developed and developing countries. Its comorbidities (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, cancer) are a leading cause of premature death and a major economic burden. Despite this, our understanding of the disease and ability to treat it are limited, with few interventions available and many not effective in producing lasting results. 

The failures of current obesity therapies aimed at reducing adiposity (white adipose tissue excess) via changes in life-style and diet, suggest that the disease is likely not caused uniquely by behavior (e.g. overeating) or genetic factors. Our hypothesis, supported by a growing body of evidence, is that pathological weight gain causes and is maintained by persistent changes in brain circuitry. The Furlan lab focuses on building a better understanding of body-brain neuronal circuits and the pattern of their dysregulation, providing insights that can inform novel approaches to and new treatments against obesity and the metabolic syndrome. 


For information about ongoing research projects, please mail Dr. Furlan at

Research support

Current funding

  • Karolinska Institute starting grant
  • Karolinska Institute strategic support
  • Stratneuro

Past funding

  • Swedish research council (VR postdoc)
  • Karolinska Institute (KID)
  • EMBO postdoctoral fellowship (Germany)
  • The Charles H. Revson Foundation (USA)
  • The Warren Alpert Foundation (USA)

Selected publications

* indicates corresponding author
# equal contribution

Neurotensin neurons in the extended amygdala control dietary choice and energy homeostasis.
Furlan A, Corona A, Boyle S, Sharma R, Rubino R, Habel J, Gablenz EC, Giovanniello J, Beyaz S, Janowitz T, Shea SD, Li B
Nat Neurosci 2022 Oct;():

Genetically identified amygdala-striatal circuits for valence-specific behaviors.
Zhang X, Guan W, Yang T, Furlan A, Xiao X, Yu K, An X, Galbavy W, Ramakrishnan C, Deisseroth K, Ritola K, Hantman A, He M, Josh Huang Z, Li B
Nat Neurosci 2021 11;24(11):1586-1600

A Genetically Defined Compartmentalized Striatal Direct Pathway for Negative Reinforcement.
Xiao X, Deng H#, Furlan A#, Yang T, Zhang X, Hwang GR, Tucciarone J, Wu P, He M, Palaniswamy R, Ramakrishnan C, Ritola K, Hantman A, Deisseroth K, Osten P, Huang ZJ, Li B
Cell 2020 10;183(1):211-227.e20

Opposing Contributions of GABAergic and Glutamatergic Ventral Pallidal Neurons to Motivational Behaviors.
Stephenson-Jones M, Bravo-Rivera C, Ahrens S, Furlan A, Xiao X, Fernandes-Henriques C, Li B
Neuron 2020 03;105(5):921-933.e5

Molecular Architecture of the Mouse Nervous System.
Zeisel A, Hochgerner H, Lönnerberg P, Johnsson A, Memic F, van der Zwan J, Häring M, Braun E, Borm LE, La Manno G, Codeluppi S, Furlan A, Lee K, Skene N, Harris KD, Hjerling-Leffler J, Arenas E, Ernfors P, Marklund U, Linnarsson S
Cell 2018 08;174(4):999-1014.e22

Multipotent peripheral glial cells generate neuroendocrine cells of the adrenal medulla.
Furlan A#, Dyachuk V#, Kastriti ME, Calvo-Enrique L, Abdo H, Hadjab S, Chontorotzea T, Akkuratova N, Usoskin D, Kamenev D, Petersen J, Sunadome K, Memic F, Marklund U, Fried K, Topilko P, Lallemend F, Kharchenko PV, Ernfors P, Adameyko I
Science 2017 07;357(6346):

Visceral motor neuron diversity delineates a cellular basis for nipple- and pilo-erection muscle control.
Furlan A, La Manno G, Lübke M, Häring M, Abdo H, Hochgerner H, Kupari J, Usoskin D, Airaksinen MS, Oliver G, Linnarsson S, Ernfors P
Nat Neurosci 2016 10;19(10):1331-40

Unbiased classification of sensory neuron types by large-scale single-cell RNA sequencing.
Usoskin D, Furlan A, Islam S, Abdo H, Lönnerberg P, Lou D, Hjerling-Leffler J, Haeggström J, Kharchenko O, Kharchenko PV, Linnarsson S, Ernfors P
Nat Neurosci 2015 Jan;18(1):145-53

Neurodevelopment. Parasympathetic neurons originate from nerve-associated peripheral glial progenitors.
Dyachuk V#, Furlan A#, Shahidi MK, Giovenco M, Kaukua N, Konstantinidou C, Pachnis V, Memic F, Marklund U, Müller T, Birchmeier C, Fried K, Ernfors P, Adameyko I
Science 2014 Jul;345(6192):82-7

The transcription factor Hmx1 and growth factor receptor activities control sympathetic neurons diversification.
Furlan A, Lübke M, Adameyko I, Lallemend F, Ernfors P
EMBO J 2013 May;32(11):1613-25

Alessandro Furlan

Principal investigator
Content reviewer: