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Marina Picciotto portrait

Marina Picciotto, PhD

Faculty Member

Center for Neurocognition and Behavior | Center for Neurodevelopment and Plasticity

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Genetic and circuit changes in psychiatric diseases

The goal of our laboratory is to understand the role of acetylcholine signaling in complex behaviors and mouse models relevant to psychiatric illness. This work involves in vivo imaging of acetylcholine dynamics and its consequences on the activity of networks of neurons involved in cognition-, reward- or stress-related behaviors, as well as molecular genetic studies of acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) and their role in mediating the actions of acetylcholine during development and in adulthood. The laboratory uses molecular genetic tools (knockout and transgenic mice, viral vector-mediated gene transfer), coupled with use of genetically-encoded sensors (to measure neurotransmitter levels or calcium signaling), and biochemical, pharmacological and behavioral analyses. We have demonstrated a critical role of specific nAChRs in nicotine reward, providing a defined molecular target for pharmacological intervention for smoking cessation as well as identifying the anatomical basis for other behaviors related to the effects of acetylcholine. Ongoing projects in the laboratory include studying the interaction between acetylcholine and circuits involved in stress response, appetitive learning or reward. We also study nicotine-induced neuroadaptations in intracellular signaling in dopamine neurons contributing to behaviors related to nicotine addiction and the role of nAChRs in neuronal morphology and function during development.




A graduate of Stanford University (BS) and The Rockefeller University (PhD), Marina Picciotto completed her postdoctoral training at the Institut Pasteur. She started her laboratory at Yale in the Division of Molecular Psychiatry in 1995 and is currently the Charles BG Murphy Professor in Psychiatry, Director of the Division and Deputy Director of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale. Her partner Angus Nairn is also Professor of Psychiatry at Yale and they share daughter Isobel.