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Jay M. Baraban, M.D., Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Jay M. Baraban, M.D., Ph.D.

Director, Center on Drug Addiction

Professor of Neuroscience

Research Interests: Neuronal plasticity


Dr. Jay Barbaran is a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His research focuses on molecular mechanisms of neuronal plasticity induced by environmental stimuli, including drugs. Dr. Barbaran serves as the director of the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences' Center on Drug Addiction.

Dr. Barbaran’s research focuses on the neuronal signaling pathways that mediate neuronal morphology and synaptic efficacy. Dr. Baraban and his colleagues have identified a protein that changes the strength of a message sent from one nerve to another and which may play a role in addictive behaviors. They are studying how this protein works, with hopes of developing drugs that interact with the protein to block or reverse drug-induced changes in the brain. Additionally, his research focuses on the role of microRNA pathways in synaptic signaling and plasticity.

Dr. Barbaran received his undergraduate degree from Yale University. He earned his M.D. and Ph.D. from Yale Medical School. He completed his residency at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a fellowship at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

He serves on the Johns Hopkins MD-PhD Advising Program. His work has been recognized with two teaching awards from the Institute for Excellence in Education (IEE) at Johns Hopkins. more


  • Director, Center on Drug Addiction
  • Professor of Neuroscience
  • Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Centers & Institutes


Additional Training

Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City, New York, 1984, Residency; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, 1987, Research; St Raphael's Hospital, New Haven, Connecticut, 1981, Internship

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Understanding key aspects of neuronal plasticity induced by environmental stimuli, including drugs, as they apply to neuropsychiatric disease, e.g. drug abuse, mental retardation, mechanism of action of psychotropic drugs  


Dr. Baraban's lab studies the molecular mechanisms of neuronal plasticity. Two specific projects are: The Translin/Trax RNAse complex - Recent studies have implicated microRNA signaling pathways in regulating synaptic signaling and plasticity. Ongoing studies indicate that the translin/trax RNAse complex, which is enriched in neurons, regulates processing of selected microRNAs. Furthermore, translin ko mice display defects in responsiveness to cocaine and in certain forms of synaptic plasticity. Guided by microarray studies conducted on brain tissue from translin ko mice, they have begun to identify microRNAs and transcripts that are dysregulated in these mice and plan to assess their roles in synaptic signaling and plasticity.

Tech: a RhoA GEF - RhoA signaling pathways play a major in regulating neuronal morphology. Dr. Baraban's lab has identified an activator of RhoA, Tech, that is highly enriched in brain and selectively expressed in cortical and hippocampal neurons. Overexpression of constitutively active forms of Tech produces dramatic reductions in dendritic arbor complexity. Tech binds to and co-localizes with MUPP1, a synaptic PDZ scaffold protein and is therefore well situated to regulate dendritic morphology. With the recent availability of Tech ko mice generated by Dr. Barbaran's lab, his team is poised to study its role in synaptic plasticity.

Lab Website: Jay Baraban Laboratory

Selected Publications

Baraban, J.M., Intraneuronal signaling pathways. In: Kaplan & SadockÆs Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, eighth edition, edited by B.J. Sadock and V.A. Sadock, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Philadelphia, in press. Reti, IM, Baraban, JM. (2003)

Opiate withdrawal induces Narp in the extended amygdala. Neuropsychopharmacology, in press. Levkovitz, Y. and Baraban, J.M. (2002)

A dominant negative Egr inhibitor blocks NGF-induced neurite outgrowth by suppressing c-Jun activation: role of an Egr/c-Jun complex. J. Neurosci. 22:3845-3854. Finkenstadt, P.M., Jeon, M. and Baraban, J.M. (2002)

Trax is a component of the Translin-containing RNA binding complex. J. Neurochem. 83:202-210. Reti IM, Reddy R, Worley PF, Baraban JM (2002)

Selective expression of Narp, a secreted neuronal pentraxin, in orexin neurons. J. Neurochem. 82:1561-1565.

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Biological Chemistry and Molecular Biology; Cellular and Molecular Medicine; Neuroscience

Activities & Honors


  • Institute for Excellence in Education (IEE) Outstanding Achievement in Education Award, The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2012
  • The W. Barry Wood Jr. Award for Excellence in Teaching, The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 2007 - 2008

Professional Activities

  • MD-PhD Advising Program, Johns Hopkins
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