Information | What we do | Earlier work | Current members | Past members | Summer students | Hiring | Funding| Readings
Mailing Address Phone Numbers
Medical University of South Carolina
70 President St.
Drug Discovery Bldg DD221, MSC510
Charleston, SC 29425
Map with directions to lab (PDF file)
(843) 876-2290 (Office)
(843) 876-2268 (Lab)
(843) 792-4423 (Fax)

Email: jhou[at]

Thomas Jhou CV Publications How to pronounce

What we do
Our lab studies the neural bases of motivated behavior, with a particular emphasis on addiction, depression, and interactions between rewarding and aversive processes. Several ongoing projects involve the role of the rostromedial tegmental nucleus (RMTg), a midbrain region I identified and characterized in 2009, along with Scott Zahm, Howard Fields, Clif Saper, and Peter Holland. This region provides a major inhibitory input to dopamine neurons, and is critically required for both learning and expression of many aversive behaviors. This region is also known as the "tail of the VTA" (see the work of Michel Barrot). It is represented by the red symbols in the graphic to the left.

Earlier Work
Before 2004 I worked on sleep and circadian rhythms with Dr. Clif Saper, and published under a defunct spelling of my last name "Chou." For more details on the old versus new spelling, see here.

Current Memebers
Thomas Jhou Pete Vento Hao Li Ying Chao Maya Eid
Thomas Jhou
Principal Investigator
Pete Vento
Hao Li
PhD Student
Ying Chao
MD/PhD Student
Maya Eid
MD/PhD Student
Nicki Pullmann Sara Dunn
Nicki Pullmann
Sara Dunn

Past Memebers
Courtney Rowley Nathan Burnham Rachel Smith Scott Hoover Jennifer Rowell
Courtney Rowley
Nathan Burnham
Rachel Smith
Post-doc and Research Assistant Professor
Scott Hoover
Masters Student
Jennifer Rowell

Summer Students
Nicole Cyr, Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), (2013)
Nicki Pullmann, Bachelor's essay & independent study, College of Charleston, and SURP program (2013-2014)
Leonardo Awgulewitsch, Academic Magnet High School, North Charleston (2014)
Sam Black, Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), (2016)

We will likely have at least one full-time position open in 2016. Please contact me for details. In addition, visitors, volunteers, and collaborations are always welcome.

For more information, email jhou[at]

Current funding:
NIDA R01DA037327 (2014-2019)
NIMH R01MH094489 (2012-2017) (subcontract)
NIDA R21DA032898 (2012-2014)

Institutional training grant (T32) to P. Vento
CEBRA (R21) to R. Smith

Completed funding:
NIDA R03DA034431 (2012-2014)
MUSC Alcohol Research Center (ARC) pilot grant (2013)

Background Reading Selected publications (in chronological order)
Other researchers have kindly written several summaries of our articles. They are concise and cogent, and I recommend them to anyone who is new to the work we do:

Quirk GJ, Sotres-Bayon F, "Signaling aversive events in the midbrain: worse than expected", Neuron, 61(5):655-6, 2009.

Rothwell PE, Lammel S, "Illuminating the opponent process: cocaine effects on habenulomesencephalic circuitry", J. Neurosci., 33(35):13935-7.
Note that publications prior to 2004 use an alternate, and now defunct, spelling of my last name, "Chou". For more gory details on the name spelling change, click here.

Access the recommendation on F1000PrimeChou, TC, Scammell, TE, Gooley, JJ, Gaus, SE, Saper, CB, Lu, J, "Critical role of the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus in a wide range of behavioral circadian rhythms", J. Neuroscience, 23(33):106910-702, 2003.

Jhou, T, Neural mechanisms of freezing and passive aversive behaviors, J. Comp. Neurol. 493(1):111-4, 2005.

Lu, J, Jhou, TC, Saper, CB, Identification of Wake-Active Dopaminergic Neurons in the Ventral Periaqueductal Gray Matter, J. Neurosci., January 4, 2006; 26(1): 193 - 202.

Phillips, PEM, Walton, ME, Jhou, TC, Calculating Utility: Preclinical evidence for cost-benefit analysis by mesolimbic dopamine, Psychopharmacology, 2007; 191(3):483-95.

Greco MA, Fuller P, Jhou, TC, Martin-Schild S, Zadina JE, Hu Z, Shiromani P, Lu J. Opioidergic projections to sleep-active neurons in the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus. Brain Res. 2008.

Jhou, TC, Geisler S, Marinelli M, DeGarmo BA, Zahm DS, The rostromedial tegmental nucleus: a mesopontine structure targeted by the lateral habenula that projects to the ventral tegmental area and substantia nigra compacta. J. Comp. Neurology, 513(6):566-96, 2009.

Access the recommendation on F1000Prime Jhou, TC, Fields, HL, Baxter, MG, Saper, CB, Holland PC, "The rostromedial tegmental nucleus (RMTg), a major GABAergic afferent to midbrain dopamine neurons, encodes aversive stimuli and promotes behavioral inhibition." Neuron,61(5):786-800, 2009.

Hong S, Jhou TC, Smith M, Saleem KS, Hikosaka, O, Negative reward signals from the lateral habenula to dopamine neurons are mediated by rostromedial tegmental nucleus in primates, J. Neurosci. 31(32):11457-71, 2011.

Jhou TC, Xu SP, Lee MR, Gallen CL, Ikemoto S., Mapping of reinforcing and analgesic effects of the mu opioid agonist Endomorphin-1 in the ventral midbrain of the rat. Psychopharmacology, 2012.

Access the recommendation on F1000Prime Jhou TC, Good CH, Rowley CS, Xu SP, Wang H, Burnham NW, Hoffman AF, Lupica CR, Ikemoto S, "Cocaine drives aversive conditioning via delayed activation of dopamine-responsive habenular and midbrain pathways. J. Neurosci., 33(17):7501-12, 2013.

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(c) 2016. Thomas Jhou.