Roh-Yu Shen PhD

Roh-Yu Shen

Roh-Yu Shen


Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Specialty/Research Focus

Addictions; Behavioral Neuroscience; Brain Research; Drug Abuse; Electrophysiology; Ethanol Pharmacology; Glia - Physiology & Pathophysiology; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Neurobiology; Neurodevelopmental Disorders; Neuroscience

Contact Information
1021 Main Street
Buffalo, New York 14203
Phone: (716) 887-2593

Professional Summary:

My research focuses on how prenatal environmental factors such as prenatal ethanol exposure and prenatal stress exposure alter various brain functions leading to persistent cognitive and behavioral deficits (e.g. impaired executive function, increased addiction risk, and anxiety) later in life. We also study how postnatal environment can ameliorate or further exacerbate these deficits. A new focused area is the contribution of neuroinflammation in ethanol exposure-induced cellular and behavioral effects. A wide array of techniques is used in my research, including cellular/system electrophysiology, immunocytochemistry, and various behavioral techniques coupled with optogenetic and fiber photometry approaches. These techniques allow us to investigate changes in brain functions at cellular, circuitry, and behavioral levels. Our major discovery is that prenatal ethanol or prenatal stress exposure leads to over-excitation of dopamine (DA) neurons located in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and enhance their responses to drugs of abuse resulting in increased addiction risk. In addition, we are investigating how prenatal ethanol exposure leads to cellular/molecular changes underlying impaired executive function and anxiety-like behaviors. My research contributes to the understanding of brain mechanisms mediating cognitive and behavioral deficits in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). These findings may lead to better treatment strategies of FASD

Education and Training:

  • PhD, Behavioral Neuroscience, Wayne State University (1989)
  • MS, Behavioral Neuroscience, Wayne State University (1987)
  • BS, Psychology, National Taiwan University (1983)

Research Expertise:

  • Behavioral neuroscience, cellular and system electrophysiology,

UB 2020 Strategic Strengths:

  • Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan

Grants and Sponsored Research:

  • September 2022–August 2027
    Role of Microglia in Prenatal ethanol exposure-induced Impairment of Endocannabinoid Signaling
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • March 2021–March 2025
    Synaptic transport of endocannabinoids in the brain
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator
  • September 2018–August 2023
    Prenatal ethanol exposure and nitric oxide signaling in serotonin neurons
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • June 2018–March 2023
    Prenatal ethanol exposure on executive function
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • February 2015–February 2022
    Dopamine Function after Prenatal Ethanol Exposure
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • March 2020–March 2021
    Synaptic transport of endocannabinoids in the brain
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator
  • December 2010–November 2017
    Addiction Propensity After Prenatal Ethanol Exposure.
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • April 1999–March 2005
    Dopamine function after prenatal ethanol exposure
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • February 2000–February 2005
    Research Training on Alcohol Etiology and Treatment
    This proposal supports postdoctoral training at the Research Institute on Addictions, University at Buffalo
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator
  • February 1997–February 2001
    Chronic ethanol, dopamine electrophysiology and craving
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • February 1995–February 1997
    Chronic ethanol, dopamine electrophysiology and craving
    NIAAA Shannon's Award
    Role: Principal Investigator
See all (1 more)

Journal Articles:

See all (32 more)


  • "Prenatal ethanol exposure leads to failure of synaptic maturation and persistent cognitive/behavioral deficits" Gordon Conference: Alcohol & the Nervous System, Galveston, TX, March 1-6, 2020 (2020)
  • "Prenatal ethanol exposure leads to persistent cognitive and behavioral deficits - rescued by environmental enrichment" Perinatal Origins of Neuropsychiatric Disorders: from Molecular Mechanisms to Therapeutic perspectives (2019)
  • "Ethanol exposure alters how brain reward pathway respond to inputs and drugs" Gordon Conference: Alcohol & the Nervous System, Galveston, TX, invited speaker, 2016. (2016)
  • "Prenatal ethanol exposure persistently increases glutamate synaptic transmission in ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons" Research Society on Alcoholism Symposium, invited speaker (2011)
  • "Neuronal mechanisms of drug relapse" Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Buffalo, NY, 2010 (2010)
  • "The effects of chronic alcohol exposure on brain dopamine system, Canisius College, Buffalo" Canisius College, Buffalo, NY, 2000 (2000)
  • "Persistent over-excitation of ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons as a critical cellular mechanism for addiction" National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan (1997)
  • "Brain derived neurotrophic factor increases the electrophysiological activity of substantia nigra dopamine neurons in vivo" Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Tarrytown, NY, 1993 (1993)
  • "The effects of prenatal and postnatal alcohol exposure on the activity of dopamine neurons - possible mechanisms of craving" Department of Psychology, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan (1993)
  • "The role of D-1 and D-2 dopamine receptors in regulating the glutamate-evoked activities of caudate neurons in the rat" Department of Psychology, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan (1990)
  • "Does increased excitatory synaptic strength in midbrain dopamine neurons mediate enhanced addiction risk?" Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University at Buffalo, 2013
  • "Persistent changes in the activity and synaptic transmission of midbrain dopamine neurons after prenatal ethanol exposure and the functional implications" ” SUNY Upstate NEUROFEST, Syracuse, NY, 2010
  • "Prenatal ethanol exposure Leads to allostatic regulation of midbrain dopamine neurons: possible cellular mechanism for increased addiction risk" SUNY at Binghamton, NY, 2014
  • "Prenatal ethanol exposure persistently impairs attention and long-term depression at glutamate synapses in the medial prefrontal cortex: effects rescued by environmental enrichment" Research Society on Alcoholism Symposium
  • "The effect of fetal alcohol exposure on the activity of midbrain dopamine neurons” Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences" Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Psychology, the Neuroscience Program, University at Buffalo, 2006
See all (5 more)

Service Activities:

  • Bring Kids to Work Day; Host research activities for kids (2022)
  • Frontier in Immunology (2021–2022)
  • Inviting guest speaker Dr. Kristin Hamre (2021–2022)
  • Texas Research Society on Alcoholism; Reviewer (2021–present)
  • ACER (2021–present)
  • NIH/NIAAA; The Neurotoxicology and Alcohol Study Section (NAL);; Reviewer (2020–2024)
  • Behavioral Brain Research (2020–2022)
  • ; Behavioral research Methods (2020–2022)
  • Journal of Neuroscience Research (2020–2022)
  • Undergraduate committee; Committee member (2020–present)
  • PhD Program in Basic Science (PPBS) Admissions Committee as representative for the Neuroscience Program, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, UB. Serving as a secondary member in year 2018-2019. Primary member 2019-present.; Reviewer of student applications. (2018–present)
  • NIH ZAA1 CC NIAAA center grant (2018–present)
  • NIH Neurotoxicology and Alcohol (2018–present)
  • NSERC Canada. Government of Canada. Discovery Grants program; Reviewer (2018–present)
  • Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior Study Section (NMB);; Reviewer (2017–present)
  • NIH Alcohol and Motivational Behavior; Ad hoc reviewer (2016–present)
  • NIH Collaborative Partnership on Alcohol and Heath, RG1 IFCN-C (03); Grant reviewer (2015–present)
  • NIH Disparity Research Center (ADHRC) (U54) review, ZAA1 DD (54)1; Reviewer (2015–present)
  • UB/RIA Undergraduate Course Committee; Member (2015–2022)
  • SUNY Brain Network of Excellence Review; Reviewer (2014–2022)
  • NIH Alcohol and Reward Committee, electronic review: ZRG1 IFCN-C; Ad hoc (2013–present)
  • UB/RIA Self-Study Committee 2011; Member (2011–present)
  • UB/RIA Director Search Committee; Member (2011–present)
  • Westminster Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, NY; Church Deacon (2010–2016)
  • Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol & Substance Abuse. Participated in Organizational Committee of training practitioners to recognize fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Gave talk to inform public about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.; Committee member (2010–2012)
  • Welcome Trust Grant Review; Reviewer (2010–present)
  • Westminster Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, NY; Sunday school teacher (2003–2008)
  • NIH Alcohol and Toxicology Subcommittee 3; Standing member (2000–2004)
  • Responsibilities: Review IACUC animal protocols are reviewed in monthly meetings. Review protocol amendments. Conduct semiannual inspections of Laboratory Animal Facilities and Laboratories using animals at and UB are performed in RIA, Buffalo General Hospital, and Children’s Hospital. Served a total of 6 years from the period of 1999 to 2014.; IACUC member (1999–2014)
  • UB/RIA Institutional Seminar Planning Committee; Planning seminars (1998–2022)
  • RIA, University at Buffalo BDAA grant committee; Reviewer (1998–2018)
  • Institutional Controlled Substance Committee 1; Chair (1998–2018)
  • UB/RIA Health and Safety Committee; Inspecting and participating in meetings and safety issues (1998–2018)
  • Westminster Presbyterian Church Energy After School Program; Tutor (1998–2001)

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Contact Information

1021 Main Street
Buffalo, New York 14203
Phone: (716) 887-2593