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Laboratory of Experimental Psychopharmacology  

team lab Fumagalli


Research topics

The major aim of our research is to investigate the molecular mechanisms altered in psychiatric disorder in order to identify new therapeutic targets. In this context, the main objectives of the research conducted in the laboratory are:

  • To characterize animal models of psychiatric disorders (drug abuse, anorexia nervosa, mood disorders, schizophrenia) through the analysis of genetic and environmental components. We primarily focus our attention on the neurotrophin BDNF and the glutamatergic system. 
  • To investigate the mechanism of action of drugs of abuse such as cocaine, ketamine, alcohol and nicotine. We mainly focus on adolescent drug exposure, since adolescence is considered a period of high vulnerability to drug abuse.
  • To investigate the mechanisms that are altered in an animal model of anorexia nervosa both in the acute phase of the pathology and after recovery.


We mainly investigate behavioral and molecular changes occurring in the brain of experimental models of the above-mentioned psychiatric disorders. We primarily investigate mRNA or protein levels of molecules that are altered in such experimental models. Gene expression is manly studied using real time PCR while western blotting, ELISA and immunohistochemistry are used to measure protein levels. We employ behavioral analyses to investigate specific pathologic phenotypes, using behavioral tests aimed at the evaluation of emotional and/or cognitive tests. Further, confocal microscope is used to study the morphology of dendritic spines in different brain areas, mainly prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.


Main collaborations

Dr. Luigi Cervo (Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri)
Prof. Cristiano Chiamulera (Università degli Studi di Verona)
Prof. Roberto Ciccocioppo (Università degli Studi di Camerino)
Prof. Patrizia Romualdi (Università degli Studi di Bologna)
Dr. Francesco Papaleo, IIT, Genova
Prof. Paolo Brambilla, Policlinico di Milano
Prof. Alessandro Barbon (Università di Brescia)
Dr. Matteo Marti (Università degli Studi di Ferrara)
Prof. Judith Homberg, Radboud University Medical Centre, Olanda
Prof. Daniela Jezova, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovacchia
Prof. Peter Gass, University of Heidelberg, Germania
Prof. Malgorzata Filip, Polish Academy of Sciences, Krakow, Polonia
Dr. Raul Gainetdinov, St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia


Selected publications

1)  L. Caffino, F. Calabrese, G. Giannotti, A. Barbon, M. Verheij, G. Racagni and F. Fumagalli. Stress rapidly dysregulates the glutamate synapse in the prefrontal cortex of cocaine-withdrawn adolescent rats Addiction Biology, 20, 158-169, 2015

2)  L. Caffino, M. Di Chio, G. Giannotti, M. Venniro, A. Mutti, L. Padovani, D. Cheung, G. Fumagalli, D.T. Yew, F. Fumagalli and C. Chiamulera. The modulation of BDNF expression and signalling dissects the antidepressant from the reinforcing properties of ketamine: effects of single infusion vs. chronic self-administration in rats. Pharmacological Research, 104: 22-30, 2016

3)  L. Caffino, G. Messa and F. Fumagalli. A single cocaine administration alters spine morphology and impairs glutamate receptor synaptic retention in the medial prefrontal cortex of adolescent rats. Neuropharmacology, 140: 209-216, 2018.

4)  D. Leo, I. Sukhanov, F. Zoratto, P Illiano, L. Caffino, F. Sanna, G. Messa, M. Emanuele, A. Esposito, EA. Budygin, L. Mus, EE. Efimova, M. Niello, S. Espinoza, TD. Sotnikova, MC. Hoener, G. Laviola, F. Fumagalli, W. Adriani and RR. Gainetdinov. Pronounced hyperactivity, cognitive dysfunctions and BDNF dysregulation in dopamine transporter knockout rats. Journal of Neuroscience, 38:1959-1972, 2018

5)  L. Caffino, M.M.M. Verheij, L. Que, C. Guo, J.R. Homberg and F. Fumagalli. Increased cocaine self-administration in rats lacking the serotonin transporter: a role for glutamatergic signaling in the habenula. Addict Biol. 2018 Aug 24. doi: 10.1111/adb.12673. [Epub ahead of print]

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