Research Collaborate Lab Bench

Medical Scientist Training Program

Alexander Helfand

Alexander Helfand, PhD

M3 Student

Faculty Advisor

  • Jeffrey Binder, MD, Neurology, Cellular Biology, Neurobiology & Anatomy, and Biophysics


  • Medical Scientist Training Program

Contact Information


PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin, 2020
MS, Medical Science, Boston University, 2014
BA, Psychology, Boston University, 2012

Research Interests

I am interested in the neural networks which mediate behavior, especially the processing of external stimuli in order to plan and execute a response.

I am especially interested in the neural networks mediating motivated behaviors and reward valuation. I am also interested in studying the biological bases for human communication (verbal and written).

Research Experience

Medical College of Wisconsin, 2017-2020
Advisor: Jeffrey Binder, MD
Project: Toward a gold standard: An outcomes-based assessment of fMRI-based methods for probing language laterality in the brain

Medical College of Wisconsin, 2017
Advisor: Cecilia Hillard, PhD
Project: Cannabinoid Receptor 1 and Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase Contribute to Operant Sensation Seeking in Mice Authors

Johns Hopkins University/Boston University, 2013-2014
Advisor: Simon Levy, PhD (Boston University); Una McCann, MD (Johns Hopkins); George Ricaurte, MD, PhD (Johns Hopkins)
Project: 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA): Pharmacology, Toxicology, Usage Patterns, and Neurological Effects in Humans

Boston University, 2011-2012
Advisor: Brett DiBenedictis, PhD; Michael Baum, PhD; James Cherry, PhD
Project: Olfactory Hedonics: Differential Projections and Functionality of the Posterior and Anterior Medial Amygdala in Swiss-Webster Mice


Helfand, A. I., Olsen, C. M. & Hillard, C. J. Cannabinoid Receptor 1 and Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase Contribute to Operant Sensation Seeking in Mice. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 18, (2017). doi: 10.3390/ijms18081635.

Dibenedictis, B. T., Helfand, A. I., Baum, M. J. & Cherry, J. A. A quantitative comparison of the efferent projections of the anterior and posterior subdivisions of the medial amygdala in female mice. Brain Research. 1543, 101–108 (2014). doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2013.10.046.

Meeting Abstracts

Brett DiBenedictis, Alexander Helfand, James Cherry PhD, Michael Baum PhD. Differential Projections of the Ant. & Post. Medial Amygdala; Poster presentation at 34th Annual Meeting of the Association for Chemoreception Sciences, Huntington Beach, California. April, 2012.

Yihan Li, Alexander Helfand, Una McCann MD, George Ricaurte MD PhD. Sleep Architecture and Respiratory Disturbances in Abstinent Methamphetamine Users; Poster presentation at 8th Annual Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Research Symposium, Baltimore, Maryland. December, 2013.

Alexander Helfand, Christopher Olsen PhD, Cecilia Hillard PhD. The Effects of Cannabinoid Receptor-1 Knockout on Novel Sensation Seeking Behavior in Mice; Poster presentation at MCW Medical Student Research Symposium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. October, 2015.

General Interests

Technology, cloud computing & networking, and politics