Kourtney Graham, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Associate

Kourtney’s work integrates anatomical, genetic, and in vivo Ca2+ imaging techniques to investigate plasticity within neural circuits mediating flexible behavior.

I graduated from Florida State University with a PhD in Neuroscience in May of 2017 and joined the O’Connell lab shortly thereafter as postdoctoral associate. I am studying the neural circuits involved in the control of food intake in the context of obesity. In general, obesity occurs when homeostatic mechanisms that regulate food intake and energy expenditure become dysregulated due to excessive caloric intake and decreased activity. Glial cells are critical to the development, function and maintenance of neuronal circuits involved in food intake. In particular, astrocytes – the most abundantly expressed glial cells in the brain – are well-established in their role of providing crucial metabolic support to neurons. I am interested in delineating the mechanisms by which diet-induced obesity modulates astrocyte-dependent changes in neuronal activity and feeding behavior. To do this, I use in vivo Ca2+ imaging and chemogenetic techniques to simultaneously modulate and measure neuronal and astrocyte activity while the mice are performing food-seeking behaviors. Ultimately, these studies should provide crucial insights into the progression of obesity as well as changes that may occur in astrocyte activity in response to high-fat diet.

Education and experience


Florida State University
Ph.D., Neuroscience
Adv: Dr. Yi Zhou

Florida State University
B.S., Biological Sciences


The Jackson Laboratory
Postdoctoral Associate
Adv: Dr. Kristen O'Connell