Department of Medicine
Faculty Profiles by Division

Department of Medicine

Faculty Profiles

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photo David Levinthal, MD, PhD


Assistant Professor of Medicine

Director, Neurogastroenterology & Motility Center

Co-Director, UPMC Program for Gut Brain Health (PGH)


Phone: 412-232-8888

Office: Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition - 200 Lothrop St.
UPMC Mercy Digestive Health Center - 1515 Locust St, 5th Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: 412-232-8888
Fax: 412-232-8887
Administrative Assistant:
Clinical-Procedure Scheduling
Address: UPMC Mercy Digestive Health Center
1515 Locust St, 5th floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: 412-232-8888
Fax: 412-232-8887
Education and Training
B.S., Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, 1998
Ph.D., Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, 2004
M.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 2006
Internal Medicine Internship, University of Michigan Hospitals, 2007
Internal Medicine Residency, University of Michigan Hospitals, 2008
Gastroenterology Fellowship, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 2012
Research Interest
Dr. Levinthal's lab uses both neuroanatomical tracing and neurophysiological techniques to explore the neural basis for central nervous system influences over autonomic regulation in both health and disease. Dr. Levinthal's research focuses on the neural mechanisms by which the cerebral cortex influences GI tract function. Initial studies have uncovered the surprising finding that a visceromotor map of sympathetic function is embedded within the classic cortical somatotopic map of motor function. Further work is aimed at understanding the cortical regions that influence vagal function. The goal of this effort is to use the visceral maps to guide brain stimulation as a means to influence GI tract function. This line of work will lead to the development of brain-based therapies for those with forms of severe GI dysfunction refractory to standard treatments.
Clinical Interest
Descending neural commands from the cerebral cortex can have a profound influence on GI tract function in both health and disease. Uncovering the neural basis for such "top-down" influences on gut function is particularly relevant for understanding pathophysiological mechanisms that contribute to functional GI and motility disorders, including those that occur in the setting of diseases of the central nervous system. Our group is also interested in exploring the cognitive and emotional determinants of symptom severity in functional GI disorders, with an interest in developing new integrated models of care that exploit mind-body interventions. We also hope to translate our basic work on the central neural basis of GI regulation into novel, brain-based therapeutic strategies for those with forms of severe GI dysfunction found to be refractory to standard treatments.
For my complete bibliography, Click Here.
Selected Publications:
Dum, R. P., Levinthal, D. J., Strick, P. L. Motor, cognitive, and affective areas of the cerebral cortex influence the adrenal medulla. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A. 2016; 113(35): 9922-7.
Levinthal, D.J., Strick, P.L. The motor cortex communicates with the kidney. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2012; 32(19): 6726-31.
Dum, R.P., Levinthal, D.J., Strick, P.L. The spinothalamic system targets motor and sensory areas in the cerebral cortex of monkeys. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2009; 29(45): 14223-35.
Levinthal, D. J. The Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Threshold: A Framework for Understanding Pathogenesis and Predicting Successful Treatments. Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology. 2016; 7: doi:10.1038/ctg.2016.55.
Levinthal, D.J., Bielefeldt, K. Adult cyclical vomiting syndrome: a disorder of allostatic regulation. Experimental Brain Research. 2014; 232(8): 2541-7.
Levinthal, D.J., Rahman, A., Nusrat, S., O'Leary M., Heyman, R., Bielefeldt, K. Adding to the burden: gastrointestinal symptoms and syndromes in multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis International. 2013; 2013: 319201.
Levinthal, D.J., Bielefeldt, K. Systematic review and meta-analysis: Gastric electrical stimulation for gastroparesis. Autonomic Neuroscience. 2016; S1566-0702(16): 30033-9.
Kurin M, Bielefeldt K, Levinthal DJ. Prevalence of Nausea and Vomiting in Adults Using Ropinirole: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 2018; 63(3): 687-693.
Sponsored Research/Activities
Title: Cerebral Cortical Influences on the Stomach
Role: Principal Investigator
Funding Agency: National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, & Kidney Disease
Grant Number: K08 DK101756
Start Year: 2014
End Year: 2019
Title: The Neural Basis of the Brain-Body Connection
Role: Co-Investigator
Funding Agency: National Institute of Health
Grant Number: R01 AT010414
Start Year: 2018
End Year: 2023
Notable Achievements
Member, Society for Neuroscience (SfN), 1999-present
Member, American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), 2010-present
Member, American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), 2012-present
Member, American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society (ANMS), 2014-present
Member, American Psychosomatic Society (APS), 2015-present
Invited Member, Adult Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS) Clinical Guidelines Committee; co-sponsored by the CVS Association and ANMS, 2015-present
Invited Member, American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute Research Awards Panel (RAP) Committee, 2015-present
20th Annual Ludwig Robert Muller Lectureship, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany, Feb 2014
Young Investigator Forum Award, Best Basic Science Research, American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society, July 2014
American Gastroenterological Association Future Leaders (one of 18 national awardees), 2015-present