Marina Picciotto PhD

Charles B. G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry and Professor in the Child Study Center, of Neurobiology and of Pharmacology; Deputy Chair for Basic Science Research, Dept. of Psychiatry

Research Interests

Neuroscience; Molecular basis of behavior; Intracellular signaling; Mouse genetic models

Current Projects

  • Developmental role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in cortico-thalamic circuits and related behavior
  • Intracellular signaling pathways involved in the transition to behaviors related to nicotine addiction
  • Nicotinic antagonists and partial agonists as novel antidepressants
  • Circuits involved in nicotine's effects on feeding

Research Summary

The goal of Dr. Picciotto's research team is to understand the role of single molecules in complex behaviors related to addiction, depression, feeding and learning. She and her colleagues use molecular genetic and pharmacological approaches to link the biochemical, cellular, and anatomical levels of investigation to behavior. Of primary interest is the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in brain function and development.

Dr. Picciotto’s laboratory also studies signaling molecules downstream of nicotinic receptors, such as calcineurin, CaM kinases and adducins, which may mediate long-term changes in behavior downstream of these receptors.

Extensive Research Description

Our goal is to understand the role of single molecules in complex behaviors related to addiction, depression, feeding and learning. We use molecular genetic and pharmacological approaches to link the biochemical, cellular, and anatomical levels of investigation to behavior. A primary focus is the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in brain development and function, with a focus on behaviors related to nicotine addiction and smoking.

We are also interested in signaling molecules downstream of nicotinic receptors, such as CaM kinases and adducins, that may mediate long-term changes in behavior following receptor activation. Ultimately, integration of studies at the molecular, cellular, and systems levels will be necessary to understand the neurobiological basis for expression and plasticity of complex behaviors.


Selected Publications

  • Taylor, S.R., Badurek, S., Dileone, R.J., Nashmi, R., Minichiello, L. and Picciotto, M.R. GABAergic and glutamatergic efferents of the mouse ventral tegmental area. (2014) J Comp Neurol, 522(14):3308-34. PMC4107038
  • Mineur, Y.S., Obayemi, A., Wigestrand, M.B., Fote, G., Calarco, C.A., Li, A.M. and Picciotto, M.R. (2013) Cholinergic signaling in the hippocampus regulates social stress resilience, anxiety- and depression-like behavior, PNAS 110(9):3573-8. PMC3587265
  • McClure-Begley, T.D., Papke, R.L., Stone, K.A., Stokes, C., Levy, A.D., Gelernter, J., Xie, P., Lindstrom, J.M. and Picciotto, M.R. (2014) Rare human nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha 4 subunit (CHRNA4) variants affect expression and function of high affinity nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, J Pharm Exp Ther, 348(3):410-20. PMC3935145
  • Mineur, Y.S., Abizaid, A., Rao, Y., Salas, R., DiLeone, R.J., Gündisch, D., Diano, S., De Biasi, M., Horvath, T.L., Gao, X.-B. and Picciotto, M.R. (2011) Nicotine decreases food intake through activation of POMC neurons, Science, 332(6035): 1330-2.

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