Neurobiology of Obesity – Alessandro Furlan group

In the Furlan 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).

Research news and activities

Research and activities

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


Selected publications

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


Current funding

  • Karolinska Institutet starting grant
  • Karolinska Institutet strategic support
  • Stratneuro

Past funding

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

Staff and contact

Group leader

All members of the group


Postal address

Karolinska Institutet
Department of Neuroscience
171 77 Stockholm

Visiting address (visitors, couriers, etc.)

Karolinska Institutet
Solnavägen 9
171 65 Solna

Delivery address (goods, parcels, etc.)

Tomtebodavägen 16
171 65 Solna

Map to Biomedicum, Solnavägen 9, Solna

Work with us

Want to work with us?

We are constantly looking for doctoral and postdoctoral candidates interested in joining the group. Prior experience working with mice, and familiarity with stereotaxic surgery, imaging, and optogenetics are a plus.

Please send your cover letter and your CV, inclusive of 2-3 references to: