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Marina Picciotto, PhD

Charles B. G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry and Professor in the Child Study Center, of Neuroscience and of Pharmacology; Interim Director Division of Molecular Psychiatry, Psychiatry; Deputy Chair for Basic Science Research, Dept. of Psychiatry; Deputy Director, Kavli Institute for Neuroscience; Co-Director, Neuroscience Research Training Program, Yale Department of Psychiatry

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 acetylcholine and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in brain function and development, as well as sex differences in molecular and circuit-level signaling relevant for behavior.

Dr. Picciotto’s laboratory also studies signaling molecules downstream of nicotinic receptors which mediate long-term changes in behavior downstream of these receptors.

Specialized Terms: Neuroscience; Molecular basis of behavior; Intracellular signaling; Mouse genetic models; alcohol; sex differences

Extensive Research Description

Our goal is to understand the role of single molecules in both typical behaviors and those related to psychiatric illness. 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 acetylcholine signaling in brain development and function.

We also use proteomic approaches to discover signaling molecules downstream of nicotinic receptors 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.

Current projects include:

  • Sex differences in molecules and circuits underlying behaviors relevant to alcohol or nicotine addiction
  • Long-range circuits involved in reward enhancement relevant to addiction
  • Intracellular signaling pathways involved in the transition to behaviors related to nicotine addiction
  • Nicotinic compounds as novel anxiolytics or antidepressants
  • Circuits involved in nicotine's effects on feeding
  • Interactions between acetylcholine and GABA signaling in BLA involved in stress-induced alcohol intake: sex differences and role of microglial signaling
  • Effects of acetylcholine on brain-body interactions related to contextual tolerance to opiates

Coauthors

Research Interests

Acetylcholine; Alcohol Drinking; Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms; Mental Disorders; Nervous System Diseases; Neurobiology; Neurosciences; Nicotine; Pharmacology; Stress, Psychological; Opiate Alkaloids

Research Images

Selected Publications