Robert C. Froemke, Ph.D.


Robert C. Froemke, Ph.D.
Skirball Professor of Genetics
Neuroscience Institute and Department of Otolaryngology
New York University Grossman School of Medicine
540 First Ave
Skirball Institute, Fifth Floor, Lab 9
City, State, ZIP
New York, NY 10016
(212) 263-4082
[email protected]
Research field
Award year
Pew distinction
Innovation Fund investigator


We are social animals. Like most mammals, we engage in social interactions and activities important for our health and happiness, such as communicating, making friends, selecting mates, and raising children. These complex, essential behaviors are related to the function of specific neurochemical systems in the central nervous system—including oxytocin, noradrenaline, acetylcholine, and steroid hormones like testosterone and estrogen—each of which is recruited under different behavioral conditions, arousal levels, and motivational states. These molecules exert powerful effects on neural networks, modulating and modifying synaptic connections between nerve cells to change how social identities, relationships, and the external world are represented in the brain. In the lab, we examine how individual synapses are changed by alterations in the patterns of neural activity, neurochemical signaling, and sensory experience. We combine electrophysiological recording, computational analysis, and behavioral experiments, aiming to discover basic principles and quantitative rules by which neural circuits and synapses of the mammalian cerebral cortex develop and are reorganized throughout life to affect perception and behavior.

2023 Innovation Fund:

As an Innovation Fund investigator, Robert Froemke, Ph.D., is teaming up with Jesse Goldberg, M.D., Ph.D., to study the ways that animals respond to their young’s need to feed. Vocalizing this need is how both young songbirds and mice communicate to their parents. In birds, hungry chicks produce begging calls; in mice, infants will produce ultrasonic vocalizations to alert their parents. The behaviors are similar, but the neural pathways involved are not well understood, especially in a cross-species context. To study this, the Goldberg and Froemke labs will evaluate the dopamine and oxytocin signals in neurons that drive this behavior in birds and run parallel studies in mice. This comparative approach between two very different species will shed light on parent-child interactions at both the neural and behavioral levels.

2017 Innovation Fund:

As an Innovation Fund investigator in 2017, Froemke teamed up with Dan R. Littman, M.D., Ph.D., to explore new topics at the interface between neuroscience and immunology, employing techniques from one system to investigate the other. They used novel tools to probe how the neuronal sensing of gut microbes and intestinal function alter an animal’s behavior—work that could help map how information is relayed from the gut to the nervous system to promote recovery from an illness.

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