Department of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology at the University of Pittsburgh
John Fernstrom, PhD
Professor, Psychiatry
1620 WPIC
Pittsburgh, PA 15261

Phone: 412-624-2032

Fax: 412-624-3696


BS (Biology), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1969.
PhD (Neuropharmacology, Nutritional Biochemistry), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1972.

Research Areas
Signal Transduction
Photo of John Fernstrom, PhD

Dr. Fernstrom’s laboratory is interested in the control of neurotransmitter and neuropeptide synthesis and function. In one line of investigation, members of his group are examining the influence of substrate levels in the control of catecholamine and serotonin biosynthesis. Current foci of interest include the possible role of phenylalanine as a substrate for tyrosine hydroxylase, and the influence of metabolic events (like exercise and food ingestion) on brain tryptophan uptake and serotonin synthesis.


In another line of investigation, lab members are studying factors that govern the production and release of hypothalamic neuropeptides. Current studies examine the impact of pharmacologic agents (e.g., ethanol) on pituitary growth hormone secretion, and whether drug-induced changes in growth hormone secretion can be tracked to alterations in the production of hypothalamic hormones governing its release (i.e., somatostatin, growth hormone-releasing hormone).


Important Publications
Fernstrom JD and Choi. The development of tolerance to drugs that suppress food intake. Pharmacology & Therapeutics 117:105-122, 2008.
Rajakumar K, JD Fernstrom, MF Holick, JE Janosky and SL Greenspan. Vitamin D status and response to vitamin D3 in obese vs non-obese African-American children. Obesity 16:90-95, 2008.
Yao N, RJ Sclabassi, Q Liu, J Yang, JD Fernstrom, MH Fernstrom and M Sun. A Video Processing Approach to the Study of Obesity. Proceedings, 2007 IEEE International Conference on Multimedia and Expo (2-5 July 2007, Beijing), pp. 1727-1730, 2007.
Fernstrom JD and MH Fernstrom. Tyrosine, phenylalanine and catecholamine synthesis and function in brain. Journal of Nutrition 137:1539S-1547S, 2007.
Fernstrom JD. Health issues relating to monosodium glutamate use in the diet. In: Reducing Salt in Foods: Practical Strategies, Kilcast C, Angus F, eds. Boca Raton FL: CRC Press, pp. 55-76, 2007.
Choi S, B DiSilvio, J Unangst and JD Fernstrom. Effect of chronic infusion of olanzapine and clozapine on food intake and body weight gain in male and female rats. Life Sciences 81:1024-1030, 2007.
Choi S, V Blake, S Cole and JD Fernstrom. Effects of chronic fenfluramine administration on hypothalamic neuropeptide mRNA expression. Brain Research 1087:83-86, 2006.
Fernstrom JD, AP Courcoulas, PR Houck and MH Fernstrom. Chronic changes in blood pressure in extremely obese patients who have undergone bariatric surgery. Archives of Surgery 141:276-283, 2006.

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