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
  • The neuropeptide galanin as an endogenous protective factor against drug addiction and withdrawal
  • 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, 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 the role of galanin, a neuropeptide that protects against the development of addiction, as well as signaling molecules downstream of nicotinic and galanin receptors, such as calcineurin, CaM kinase I, and adducin, 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, 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 galanin, which is a neuropeptide that protects against the development of addiction. Galanin knockout mice show increased addiction-related behaviors, whereas galanin agonists oppose those behaviors. Finally, we are interested in signaling molecules downstream of nicotinic and galanin receptors, such as CaM kinase I and adducin, 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

  • Horst, N.K., Heath, C.J., Neugebauer, N.M., Kimchi, E.Y., Laubach, M. and Picciotto, M.R. (2012) Impaired auditory discrimination following perinatal nicotine exposure or ß2 nAChR subunit deletion, Behavioural Brain Research, 231(1):170-80.
  • 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.
  • Lori, A., Tang, Y., O’Malley, S., Picciotto, M.R., Wu, R. and Cubells, J.F. (2011) The galanin receptor 1 (GalR1) gene associates with tobacco craving in smokers seeking cessation treatment, Neuropsychopharmacology, 36(7):1412-20.
  • Xie, P., Kranzler, H.R., Krauthammer, M., Cosgrove, K.P., Oslin, D., Anton, R.F., Farrer, L.A., Picciotto, M.R., Krystal, J.H., Zhao, H. and Gelernter, J. (2011) Rare nonsynonymous variants in alpha-4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor gene protect against nicotine dependence, Biological Psychiatry, 70(6):528-36.

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