Job ID: 114076
To study the neurobiological, behavioral and pharmacological basis of drug addiction and related psychopathologies
Position: Ph.D. Student
Deadline: 4 August 2023
Employment Start Date: 1 November 2023
Contract Length: 3 years
Institution: University of Camerino
Department: School of Pharmacy, Certer for Neuroscience
Project title: To study the neurobiological, behavioral and pharmacological basis of drug addiction and related psychopathologies.
ERC Field: LS5_3 Neurochemistry and neuropharmacology; LS7_3 Pharmacology, pharmacogenomics, drug discovery and design, drug therapy;LS5_12 Psychiatric disorders
Key words: Reward and Motivation, Environment, Neurocircuitry, Pharmacology, Electrophysiology,
Host Institution: University of Camerino
Reference person/supervisor: Roberto Ciccocioppo firstname.lastname@example.org
Research topic description
Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a psychiatric condition associated with increased health risks and social harm with dramatic impact to the global disease burden. In humans addictive behavior is characterized by a shift from recreational to compulsive drug seeking as described in the DSM-IV. Long-term consumption of substances of abuse induces neuroadaptations that are associated with loss of control, compulsive drug taking and negative emotional states (i.e. anxiety, depression). However, not all subjects develop SUD in response to prolonged exposure to drugs. Inter-individual vulnerability to lose control of drug consumption and develop addiction depends upon genetics, environment, personality traits, psychiatric comorbidities and the interplay of all these factors. Our laboratory is aimed at investigating the mechanisms through which these factors (and their interaction), contribute to SUD vulnerability with the ultimate objective of identifying novel molecular targets and therapies to treat SUD. To exploit these projects, in addition to classical pharmacological manipulations, in vivo optogenetic, chemogenetic and neurophysiological approaches will be used. Viral mediated upregulation and downregulation of specific receptors in selected brain areas are used to determine the role of specific neurocircuitry in encoding vulnerability to SUD. Ex vivo brain slice electrophysiology will be also used to support the study.
Research team and environment
This research project will be carried out in the School of Pharmacy, Center for Neuroscience, University of Camerino, Italy. The laboratory headed by Prof. Roberto Ciccocioppo is conceived as a multidisciplinary environment to investigate complex questions in neuroscience. The main research focus of the laboratory is on the study of the neurobiological basis of abnormal behavior and brain functions relevant to human psychopathology with emphasis on motivation and reward-related disorders. The majority of this work is directed at the understanding the neurological mechanisms responsible for these aberrant behaviours and at identifying innovative pharmacological targets to aid the development of new more effective treatments. Attention to the study of neurocircuitry and molecular mechanisms controlling emotional and cognitive disturbances associated with protracted exposure to drugs of abuse or chronic stress is also an important area of research. Over the years this research team contributed to the preclinical development of at least 3 compounds that reached various clinical development stages. The team consists of several researchers, post-doctoral fellows and PhD students with different backgrounds including biology, pharmacology, philosophy, psychology and physics. Researchers have access to 1500 m2 of animal facility equipped with operant self-administration chambers, EPM equipments, Porsolt swimming tubes, open field arenas for social interaction, Noldus Etovision system for behavioral monitoring, etc. Fully equipped lab for immunohistochemistry, light, confocal and scanning electron microscopes are available. One laboratory is equipped an Electrophysiological setup for patch-clamp recordings in slices. Finally, equipment for molecular and cellular studies is available.
Preferred Research Skills and Competences
The doctoral candidate will receive training in the techniques most commonly used in basic neuroscience, including brain activity recording, imaging, electrophysiology, proteomics, behavioural testing, molecular biology, histology and data analysis. Pharmacological, chemogenetic and optogenetic approaches will be also experienced. Candidates with training backgrounds in life sciences, behavioral pharmacology, electrophysiology, pharmaceutical sciences, molecular genetics, are preferentially considered for this position.