Marina Picciotto, Ph.D., the Charles B.G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry and professor of neurobiology and of pharmacology, has been elected a member of the Institute of Medicine, the branch of the National Academies charged with providing science-based advice on medicine and health to policymakers, professionals, and the public at large.

Picciotto is an authority on the molecular underpinnings of tobacco and alcohol abuse, depression, and eating behaviors, with a particular interest in the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). In addition to playing a role in tobacco addiction, nAChRs have been implicated in Alzheimer disease and in the dysfunctional sensory processing characteristic of schizophrenia. Picciotto has also studied the effects of nicotine exposure during gestation and adolescence on learning and memory and on the neuropeptide galanin. Galanin modulates ACh release and may exert a protective effect against addiction to such drugs as cocaine, amphetamines, and opiates.

Picciotto graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a degree in biological sciences and received a Ph.D. in molecular neurobiology from The Rockefeller University in New York City in 1992. She joined the Yale faculty in 1995 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.

Picciotto, who is vice chair for basic science research in the Department of Psychiatry and associate director of the School of Medicine’s M.D./ Ph.D. program, also serves on the National Advisory Council of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.