Dr Asheeta Prasad

My Expertise

Parkinsons Disease

Drug addiction


Fields of Research (FoR)

Neurosciences, Animal Cell and Molecular Biology, Animal Behaviour, Mental Health, Animal Neurobiology

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I am interested in the wiring of the brain, how neurons grow and form neural circuits and their functions. My research focuses on neural circuitry underlying complex behaviors such as learning, memory, reward related behavior and movement. Disturbances in the neural circuitry of these behaviours contribute to pathophysiology of several neurological disorders such as drug addiction, depression, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease...view more

I am interested in the wiring of the brain, how neurons grow and form neural circuits and their functions. My research focuses on neural circuitry underlying complex behaviors such as learning, memory, reward related behavior and movement. Disturbances in the neural circuitry of these behaviours contribute to pathophysiology of several neurological disorders such as drug addiction, depression, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Multiple sclerosis. I apply unique and interdisciplinary research tools of molecular biology, optogenetics, chemogenetics and behavioral neuroscience.

My Grants

Sole CI Grants     

2019-2021           National Health and Medical Research Council                                 $507,000   

2018                     Silver Star Award, UNSW                                                                          $20,000                                    

2017-2018           Parkinson’s NSW seed fund                                                                     $44,000

2017-2020           Discovery Early Career Research Fellow                                               $388,000

2018                    Vice Chancellor’s Chidcare Fund                                                             $1600  

2016-2017           Parkinson’s NSW seed fund                                                                     $40,000

2015-2017          Career Advancement Funds, University of New South Wales        $10,000                                                  

2011                     Thesis provision funds, Rudolf Magnus Institute                                €1000


Collaborative grants

2019 The UNSW Research Infrastructure Scheme with Claire Shepherd and team $108,000

2018 Brain Sciences and Translational Neuroscience Seed Funding scheme. Asheeta Prasad, Claire Shepherd, Adith Mohan and Perminder Sachdev $19,983

2017 Brain Sciences UNSW: Dr Asheeta Prasad, Professor Michael Farrell and Professor Gavan McNally $1565

2017 Brain Sciences UNSW: Dr Asheeta Prasad, Professor Rick Richardson and Professor Margaret Morris $1700 

My Qualifications

Doctor of Philosophy
University of Utrecht, the Netherlands

Masters of Molecular Biology
University of Queensland, Australia

Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Science)
University of Western Sydney, Australia

My Awards

2017      Discovery Early Career Research Award

2017      Travel award from Asia-Pacific Alcohol Addiction Research Society

2016      Finalist Parkinson’s NSW Young Investigator

2016      FENS-SfN Summer School on Cellular Mechanisms and Networks in Addiction                                                                                                                                 

2005      University of Queensland Dean’s Commendation for Academic Excellence in Masters of Molecular Biology

My Research Activities

  1. Gibson, G.D., Prasad, A.A., Jean-Richard-dit-Bressel, P., Yau, J.O., Millan, E.Z., Liu, S., Campbell, E.J., Marchant, N.J., Power, J.M., Lawrence, A.J., & McNally, G.P. Segregated accumbens shell output pathways promote versus prevent relapse to alcohol seeking, accepted, Neuron IF: 13.97


Significance:  shows anatomical and functional segregation of AcbSh output pathways to ventral tegmental area pathway promotes relapse whereas whereas the lateral hypothalamus pathway prevents in relapse.


  1. Prasad, A.A., & McNally GP. Ventral pallidum output pathways in context-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2016 Nov 16;36(46):11716-11726. IF: 6.747

Significance: This paper showed that VP output pathways to the subthalamic nucleus and also to the ventral tegmental area are necessary for reinstatement of alcohol seeking. 


  1. Khoo, S. Y., Gibson, G. D., Prasad, A. A., & McNally, G. P. (2016). How contexts promote and prevent relapse to drug seeking. Genes Brain Behavior doi:10.1111/gbb. 12328

Significance: Comprehensive review of the behavioural and brain mechanisms enabling contexts to promote and prevent relapse to drug seeking. 


  1. Morello, F., Prasad, A.A., Vieira de Sa, R., Anton-Bolanus, N., Leyva-Diaz, E., Renberg, K., Adolfs, Y., Tissir, F., Lopez-Bendito, G., & Pasterkamp J (2015). Frizzled3 controls axonal polarity and intermediate target entry during striatal pathway development. The Journal of Neuroscience, 35, 14205-14219. IF: 6.747, Cover of The Journal of Neuroscience  


Significance: Established the embryonic ontogeny of the two main striatal pathways and identified novel roles for the axon guidance receptor Frizzled3 in uncharacterized aspects of striatal pathway formation


  1. Khoo, A.T., Gibson, G.S., Prasad, A.A., & McNally, G.P. (2015). Role of the striatopallidal pathway in renewal and reacquisition of alcohol-seeking. Behavioral Neuroscience, 129, 2 - 7.  IF: 2.728,


Significance: The first paper using optogenetics in freely moving animals published from Australia. It showed that the striatopallidal pathway, previously thought to be obligatory for all forms of relapse, does not mediate context-induced reinstatement. Instead, a different pallidal input must be important for this relapse.


  1. Prasad, A.A., & McNally GP. Effects of vivo morpholino knockdown of lateral hypothalamus orexin/hypocretin on renewal of alcohol seeking. PLoS One. 2014 9, e110385 IF: 3.534

Significance: Shows relevance of proteins other than orexin within the lateral hypothalamus that may contribute to drug seeking behaviour.

  1. Blakely BD, Bye CR, Fernando CV, Prasad, A.A., Pasterkamp RJ, Macheda ML, Stacker SA, Parish CL. (2013). Ryk, a receptor regulating Wnt5a-mediated neurogenesis and axon morphogenesis of ventral midbrain dopaminergic neurons. Stem Cells Development, 22, 2132-2144.  IF: 3.727

Significance: Shows multiple role of Wnt5a on the development of dopaminergic neurons.

  1. Prasad, A.A., Fenstermaker A, Bechara A, Adolfs Y, Tissir F, Goffinet A, Zou Y, & Pasterkamp RJ. (2010). Wnt-Planar Cell Polarity signaling controls the anterior-posterior organization of monoaminergic axons in the brainstem. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30, 16053-16064.   First-co-authorship. Featured article and Cover. IF: 6.747, feature and cover of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Significance: The first paper to demonstrate the molecular mechanism regulating the orientation of dopaminergic neurons.  

  1. Prasad A.A., Pasterkamp RJ. (2009). Axon guidance in the dopamine system. Advanced Experimental Medical Biology. 651, 91-100.

Significance: Comprehensive description of ontogeny of dopaminergic axons.

  1. Kolk SM, Gunput RA, Tran TS, van den Heuvel DM, Prasad, A.A., Hellemons AJ, Adolfs Y, Ginty DD, Kolodkin AL, Burbach JP, Smidt MP, Pasterkamp RJ. (2009). Semaphorin 3F is a bifunctional guidance cue for dopaminergic axons and controls their fasciculation, channeling, rostral growth, and intracortical targeting. The Journal of Neuroscience. 29, 12542-57. IF: 6.747

Significance: Describes the crucial role for Semaphorin 3F in development of dopaminergic circuitry.

  1. Pietersen AM, Evers B, Prasad, A.A., Tanger E, Cornelissen-Steijger P,Jonkers J, van Lohuizen M. (2008). Bmi1 regulates stem cells and proliferation and differentiation of committed cells in mammary epithelium. Current Biology, 18, 1094-1099. IF: 9.571

 Significance: A detailed study of Bmi1 knockout and overexpression in mammary stem cells.

My Research Supervision

Supervision keywords

Areas of supervision

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder. Approximately 32 Australians are being diagnosed daily. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a current treatment for Parkinson's disease (PD). Yet little is known about the non-motor effects of DBS on behaviours, such as motivation, learning and memory. This project applies optogenetic technology in the rodent PD model to better understand the motor and non-motor symptoms of PD. Optogenetics technology allows neural manipulation with millisecond control in freely moving animals. Overall this project studies brain and behaviour with cutting edge technologies develop in strategies to alleviate disabling motor and non-motor symptoms of PD.


Students will be trained to use Optogenetics, chemogenetics, animal behaviour, human tissue analysis and imaging techniques.


Please contact Dr Asheeta Prasad for more information



Currently supervising

Caroline Xie

Srestha Mazumder

My Engagement

Brain awaress week 2015,2016, 2017

Pint of Science, Beautiful Mind 2017:

Where Science Meets Art - Dr Asheeta Prasad Collaborates With Two Sydney Artists For Exhibition

Brain Mechanisms In Drug Addiction - New Pathways Revealed

Non-Motor Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease - Dr Asheeta Prasad

Parkinsons Scientific Exhibition :

Blitz Radio, Science Fair with Jo 13/10/2016

In Conversation’: Artists & Scientists, Manly Art Gallery & Museum 19/02/17

Panelist for UNSW STEMM Symposium 17/08/2016 Part of Bluestockings/Women in Higher Education Week, providing perspective and inspiration to current students

AAS EMCR Forum - Science Pathways 2016: Future Leaders 26-27th September, 2016 Sponsored by School of Psychology, UNSW

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Research Activities

Injecting drug use is a behaviour strongly associated with other highly marginalised characteristics such as imprisonment, blood borne virus infections, homelessness and mental illness. This Centre for Research Excellence is focussed on injecting drug use and draws together a number of innovative studies about injecting drug use, plus provides seed funds for new projects. The Centre provides a mechanism for research translation to key stakeholders including consumers, policy makers and practitioners.