Ron Keiflin

Ron Keiflin

Assistant Professor

Research Area

Neuroscience and Behavior


Ron Keiflin received his B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Strasbourg, France and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Bordeaux, France. His postdoctoral work, conducted at UC San Francisco and at Johns Hopkins University, demonstrated the causal role of phasic dopamine signals in reward prediction learning. Ron is joining the faculty of UC Santa Barbara in January 2019, where his lab will investigate the neural bases of associative learning and decision-making, and their alteration in psychiatric disorders.


Our lab is interested in the behavioral and neural mechanisms that guide associative learning and decision-making. More specifically, we are interested in three main questions:

1. How do organisms learn the predictive relationship between events—particularly as it relates to rewards?

2. How do organisms exploit associative memories to make adaptive decisions and produce efficient reward-seeking behaviors?

3. How are learning and decision-making processes altered in neuropsychiatric disorders such as addiction and schizophrenia?

To address these questions, our lab combines sophisticated behavioral tasks in rodents (inspired by formal models of learning and decisions-making) with modern neuroscience tools to monitor and manipulate neural activity in defined neural circuits (ex: fiberphotometry, optogenetics, chemogenetics). Our goal is to define the relevant information processing principles —the general ‘rules’ that govern behavior— and the underlying neural circuits dynamics. Brain circuits of interest include midbrain dopamine neurons and their neuromodulatory influence on striatal and prefrontal networks.

Selected Publications

Keiflin R. & Janak P.H. Error-Driven Learning: Dopamine Signals More Than Value-Based Errors. Current Biology. 2018; 27(24):R1321-R1324

Keiflin R., Pribut H.J., Shah N.B., Janak P.H. Phasic activation of ventral tegmental but not substantia nigra dopamine neurons promotes model-based Pavlovian reward learning. BiorXiv. 2017

Keiflin R., Janak P.H. Dopamine prediction errors in reward learning and addiction: from theory to neural circuitry. Neuron. 2015: 88(2): 247-63

Steinberg E.E. / Keiflin R.  Boivin J.R., Witten I.B., Deisseroth K., Janak P.H. A causal link between prediction errors, dopamine neurons and learning. Nature Neuroscience. 2013; 16: 966-73

Keiflin R., Reese R.M., Woods C.A., Janak P.H. The orbitofrontal cortex as part of a hierarchical neural system mediating choice between two good options. Journal of Neuroscience. 2013; 33 (40):15989-98

Keiflin R., Isingrini E., Cador M. Cocaine-induced reinstatement in rats: evidence for a critical role of cocaine stimulus properties. Psychopharmacology. 2008; 197(4): 649-60

Keiflin R., Vouillac C., Cador M. Level of operant training rather than cocaine intake predicts level of reinstatement. Psychopharmacology. 2008; 197(2): 247-61

Lenoir M., Keiflin R.  Heroin addiction: anticipating the reward of heroin or the agony of withdrawal? Journal of Neuroscience. 2006; 26 (36): 9080-1