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Jason Newbern

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Associate Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 4501

    Dr. Newbern's laboratory studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms that direct the formation of the brain and spinal cord. The team uses genetic, cellular, and biochemical techniques to investigate the development of neurons and glia, primarily in the mouse nervous system. Their laboratory is particularly interested in understanding the neuropathogenesis of a family of developmental syndromes, known as the RASopathies. Intellectual disability, developmental delay, cognitive deficits, and seizures are often observed in individuals with a RASopathy. These syndromes are typically caused by genetic mutations in regulators of intracellular signaling via the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK cascade, better known as the classical Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) or Extracellular Regulate Kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) pathway. Abnormal activation of ERK1/2 may also be involved in schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Newbern’s laboratory is currently utilizing genetically modified mice to study precisely how ERK1/2 directs the formation of cortical excitatory and inhibitory circuits, in addition to the effects of RASopathy-linked mutations on these processes. The team is also exploring ways to reverse the pathological consequences of aberrant ERK1/2 activity with the goal of stimulating neurological recovery.

  • PhD Wake Forest University - School of Medicine 2006                        
  • BS University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 2000                                     


User-submitted personal image. No description yet available.

Layer 5 Neurons

Confocal micrograph of fluorescently labeled cortical layer 5 neurons and neuron subtype specific transcription factors.
User-submitted personal image. No description yet available.

Embryonic Mouse Peripheral Nervous System

Whole mount immunolabeling and imaging of neurofilament expression in a cleared preparation.
User-submitted personal image. No description yet available.

Triple-labeled Mouse Cortex

Fluorescent labeling of transcription factors specific to neuronal subtypes in coronal sections of mouse dorsal cortex.
User-submitted personal image. No description yet available.

Neuromuscular Junctions

Microscopic images of fluorescently neuromuscular junctions, Schwann cells, and axons in the soleus muscle.
Research Interests: 

      My research is focused on the development of the nervous system, specifically the biochemical and cellular mechanisms that direct the formation of the brain and spinal cord. Work in the laboratory employs a wide range of genetic, cellular, and molecular techniques to investigate the development of neurons and glia in distinct regions of the spinal cord and cerebral cortex.  We are particularly interested in a related group of human neurodevelopmental syndromes that are caused by abnormalities in a protein known as ‘ERK/MAP kinase’. Neurofibromatosis Type 1, Noonan-, and CFC-Syndrome are the most common syndromes in this group. Recent work suggests ERK/MAP kinase may even be involved in certain autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.  We are currently focused on defining precisely how ERK/MAP kinase dysfunction leads to defects in nervous system development.  The laboratory utilizes a combination of genetically-modified mice, high-resolution microscopy, viral vector tracing, cell-based assays, pharmacological manipulations, next-generation sequencing, and behavioral assessments to explore kinase functions in the brain.  We are also exploring strategies to reverse pathological ERK/MAP kinase activity with the goal of promoting neurological recovery.

Research Group: 

George Reed Bjorklund - Molecular and Cellular Biology PhD Student

Michael Holter - Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience PhD Student

Rebecca Sebastian - Accelerated Masters Program in Biology

Kenji Nishimura - Research Technician

Shiv Shah - Undergraduate Researcher (SOLUR)

Chris Wedwick - Undergraduate Researcher (SOLUR)

Katie Riordan - Undergraduate Researcher

Danielle Gonzalez - Undergraduate Researcher


Tokuyama M*, Xu C*, Fisher R, Wilson-Rawls J, Kusumi K, Newbern JM (2017) Developmental and adult-specific processes contribute to de novo neuromuscular regeneration in the lizard tail. Developmental Biology

Sinakevitch IT, Bjorklund GR, Newbern JM, Gerkin RC, and Smith BH. (2017) Comparative study of chemical neuroanatomy of the olfactory neuropil in mouse, honey bee and human. Biological Cybernetics. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 28852854

Blazie SM, Wilky H, Joshi R, Newbern JM, Mangone M. (2017) Alternative polyadenylation coordinates tissue specific miRNA targeting in Caenorhabditis elegans somatic tissues. Genetics 206(2):757-774. PMID: 28348061

Lewis CR, Manning TB, Himes SM, Bastle R, Fennig P, Conrad PR, Colwell J, Pagni BA, Hess LA, Matekel CG, Newbern JM, Olive MF. (2016) Interactions between Early Life Stress, Nucleus Accumbens MeCP2 Expression, and Methamphetamine Self-Administration in Male Rats. Neuropsychopharmacology  PMCID: PMC5061895

Xing L, Larsen R, Bjorklund GR, Li X , Wu Y, Philpot BD, Snider WD, Newbern JM. (2016) Layer-specific and general requirements for ERK/MAPK signaling in the developing neocortex. Elife  Feb 5;5 pii: e11123. PMCID: PMC4758957

Yi J, Berrios J, Newbern JM, Snider WD, Philpot BD, Hahn KM, Zylka MJ (2015) An Autism-Linked Mutation Disables Phosphorylation Control of UBE3A. Cell 162(4):795-807 PMCID: PMC4537845

Newbern JM. (2015) Molecular control of the neural crest and peripheral nervous system development. Curr Topics in Developmental Biology 111:201-31 PMCID: PMC4517674

Maynard TM, Gopalakrishna D, Meechan D, Paronett E, Newbern JM, LaMantia AS. (2013)  22q11 gene dosage establishes an adaptive range for sonic hedgehog and retinoic acid signaling during early development. Human Molecular Genetics. 22(2):300-12. PMCID: PMC3526161

Xing L, Newbern JM, Snider WD. (2013) Neuronal Development: SAD Kinases make happy axons. Curr Biol  “Dispatch” 23(17):R720-3. PMCID: PMC3947747

Li X, Newbern JM, Wu Y, Morgan-Smith M, Zhong J, Charron J, Snider WD. (2012) MEK is a key regulator of gliogenesis in the developing brain. Neuron. 75(6):1035-50. PMCID: PMC3483643

Newbern JM, Snider WD. (2012) Bers-ERK Schwann Cells Coordinate Nerve Regeneration. Neuron. “Preview” 73(4):623-626.

Newbern JM, Li X, Shoemaker S, Zhong J, Zhou J, Wu Y, Bonder D, Hollenback S, Coppola G, Geschwind D, Landreth GE, Snider WD. (2011) Specific functions for ERK/MAPK signaling during PNS development. Neuron. 69(1):1-15. PMCID: PMC3060558

Newbern JM, Birchmeier C. (2010) Nrg1/ErbB signaling networks in Schwann cell development and myelination.  Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology. 21(9):922-928. PMCID: PMC2991617

Newbern JM, Shoemaker S, Snider WD. (2009) Taking off the SOCS: cytokine signaling spurs regeneration. Neuron. “Preview” 64(5):591-2.

Newbern JM, Zhong J, Wickramasinghe RS, Li X, Wu Y, Samuels I, Cherosky N, Karlo JC, O'Loughlin B, Wikenheiser J, Gargesha M, Doughman YQ, Charron J, Ginty DD, Watanabe M, Saitta SC, Snider WD, Landreth GE. (2008) Mouse and human phenotypes indicate a critical conserved role for ERK2 signaling in neural crest development. Proc Natl Acad Sci 105(44):17115-20. PMCID: PMC2579387

Macosko JC, Newbern JM, Rockford J, Chisena E, Brown C, Holzwarth GM, and Milligan CE. (2008) Fewer active motors per vesicle may explain slowed vesicle transport in chick motoneurons after three days in vitro.  Brain Research 1211:6-12. PMCID: PMC2464625

Taylor AR, Gifondorwa DJ, Newbern JM, Robinson MB, Strupe JL, Prevette D, Oppenheim RW, and Milligan CE.  (2007) Astrocyte and Muscle-derived Secreted Factors Differentially Regulate Motoneuron Survival. J. Neuroscience 27(3):634-644

Newbern J, Taylor AR, Robinson MB, Lively MO, Milligan CE.  (2007) JNK signaling regulates events associated with both health and degeneration in motoneurons.  Neuroscience 47(3):680-692

Robinson MB, Tidwell JL, Gould T, Taylor AR, Newbern JM, Graves J, Tytell M, Milligan CE.  (2005) Extracellular Heat Shock Protein 70: A Critical Component for Motoneuron Survival. J. Neuroscience 25(42):9735-45

Newbern JM, Taylor AR, Robinson MB, Li L, Milligan CE.  (2005) Decreases in PI3K and ERK1/2 signaling activate components of spinal motoneuron death.  J. Neurochemistry 94:1652-1665

Sun W, Gould T, Newbern JM, Milligan CE, Choi SY, Kim H, Oppenheim RW. (2005) Phosphorylation of c-Jun in Avian and Mammalian Motoneurons In Vivo during Programmed Cell Death: An Early Reversible Event in the Apoptotic Cascade.  J. Neuroscience 25(23):5595-5603.

Research Activity: 

NIH-HHS (NINDS) - R01 NS097537                            Role: PI                                                \

Functions of ERK/MAPK Signaling in GABAergic Circuit Development


NIH-HHS (NIAAA) - R01 MH110433                            Role: Co-I (PI: Olive, Psychology)             

Brain endorphin targets of low dose alcohol


AZ Biomedical Res. Comm. ADHS #00003606         Role: Co-PI (PI: Baumbach-Reardon, UA-Phoenix)     

Identification and functional characterization of novel neuromuscular disease-causing variants in

Arizona infants and children

Spring 2021
Course NumberCourse Title
BIO 492Honors Directed Study
BIO 493Honors Thesis
BIO 495Undergraduate Research
Summer 2020
Course NumberCourse Title
BIO 495Undergraduate Research
Spring 2020
Course NumberCourse Title
BIO 467Neurobiology
BIO 492Honors Directed Study
BIO 493Honors Thesis
BIO 495Undergraduate Research
NEU 591Seminar
Fall 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
BIO 351Developmental Biology
BIO 492Honors Directed Study
BIO 493Honors Thesis
BIO 495Undergraduate Research
MBB 495Undergraduate Research
NEU 591Seminar
Summer 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
BIO 495Undergraduate Research
Spring 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
BIO 467Neurobiology
BIO 492Honors Directed Study
BIO 493Honors Thesis
BIO 495Undergraduate Research
NEU 591Seminar
MCB 591Seminar
Spring 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
BIO 492Honors Directed Study
BIO 493Honors Thesis
BIO 494Special Topics
BIO 495Undergraduate Research
MCB 501Seminar:Molecular/Cell Biology
NEU 591Seminar
BIO 598Special Topics
MCB 701Seminar:Molecular/Cellular Bio
Spring 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
BIO 467Neurobiology
BIO 493Honors Thesis
BIO 495Undergraduate Research
MCB 501Seminar:Molecular/Cell Biology
MCB 701Seminar:Molecular/Cellular Bio
Honors / Awards: 

NIH PECASE Nominee                                                                                                              2016

NIH Pathway to Independence Award                                                                               2011-2016

NIH National Research Service Award                                                                              2009-2011

UNC Developmental Biology Training Program Postdoctoral Fellowship                           2007-2008

Western North Carolina Society for Neuroscience – Poster Winner                                           2003

Professional Associations: 

American Society for Neurochemistry                                                                           2015-present

Arizona Imaging and Microanalysis Society                                                                  2014-present

Society for Neuroscience (USA)                                                                                   2002-present

Western North Carolina Society for Neuroscience                                                        2001 - 2006


International Society for Neuroscience Conference: Session Co-Chair

Minisymposium: 191 - Building the Cerebral Cortex                                                                      2016

American Heart Association - Basic Cell Genetics and Epigenetics-2 Committee                        2016

National Science Foundation Grant Reviewer                                                                               2008


Arizona State University

Breakout Session Organizer: ASU-Neuroscience Conference                                                      2017

Member: Animal Users Advisory Committee                                                                   2015-present

Member: Clinical Veterinarian Search Committee                                                                         2015

DACT In-Service Seminar “Genetic approaches to study the developing mouse”                6/14/2015

Member: Undergraduate Programs Committee                                                                2017-present

Director: Neuroscience Research Seminar                                                                       2017-present

Panel Participant: SoLS Graduate Student Retreat                                                                3/26/2017

Member: Stem Cell Biology Faculty Search Committee                                                        2016-2017

Poster Judge: MCB Retreat                                                                               10/14/2015, 10/10/2017

Co-Director: MCB Colloquium (MCB 501/701)                                                                  2015-present

Interim Member: SoLS Director Search Committee                                                               2014-2015

Member: School of Life Sciences/School of Art Collaborative Committee                                      2014