University to host NEURON conference April 7

Marina Picciotto
Marina Picciotto will deliver the keynote address.

March 28, 2013 - Marina Picciotto, the Charles Murphy Professor of Psychiatry, Neurobiology and Pharmacology at Yale University, will deliver the keynote address at the 23rd NorthEast Under/graduate Research Organization for Neuroscience's (NEURON) Conference 2013. The conference, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 7. The morning portion of the event will be held in the Burt Kahn Court on the Mount Carmel Campus, and the afternoon will be held in the Rocky Top Student Center on the York Hill Campus. Shuttle buses will be provided between the two campuses.

Picciotto will deliver the address "Molecules to Behavior: Role of Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors in Nicotine Addiction, Food Intake and Depression" at 10 a.m. in the Burt Kahn Court.

"The addictive properties of the nicotine in tobacco are well known, but people who smoke also show other changes in behavior that provide clues to the actions of nicotine on circuits in the brain," Picciotto said. "For example, there is high co-morbidity between smoking and depression and some smokers also use the nicotine in tobacco to control appetite."

She said nicotine signals through receptors in the brain that normally respond to acetylcholine which is released in response to stress in many brain areas.

"With respect to depression, emerging reports show that people who are actively depressed may have more acetylcholine occupying their nicotine receptors, suggesting that limiting the activity of nicotine receptors in the brain could result in an antidepressant response in patients who are not responsive to existing antidepressants," Picciotto said. "Similarly, the fact that nicotine can decrease food intake suggests that acetylcholine signaling normally regulates feeding through defined brain circuits. Future studies based on this work could identify novel nicotinic-based treatments for obesity and could go on to establish if an imbalance in acetylcholine signaling through nicotine receptors can lead to eating disorders in humans."

Picciotto joined the Yale faculty in 1995, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship with Jean-Pierre Changeux in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. She earned a doctorate in molecular neurobiology at The Rockefeller University in New York City in 1992, where she worked in the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience under Paul Greengard. She received a bachelor's degree in biological sciences from Stanford University in 1985.

In addition, the NEURON conference will feature the following workshops and discussions for faculty and students:

Student workshops:

  • Pipeline for Becoming a Prescription Drug- Amy Straub, director, BioPharma project management, research and development operations, Bristol Myers Squibb
  • Panel discussion on "Career Options in Science" led by Sharon Ramos Goyette, associate professor and co-director of the neuroscience program and John McCoy, professor of psychology and co-director of the neuroscience program at Stonehill College
  • "Neurobiology of Delusions" led by Rachel Jeffrey and Michael Honsberger, post-doctoral associates at Yale University

Faculty (or interested student) workshops:

  • "How People Learn: Teaching So That Students Learn With Understanding" led by Don Buckley, a professor of biology at Quinnipiac
  • "There's an App for that: Teaching and Lecturing Effectively with an iPad" led by Josef Trapani, assistant professor of biology at Amherst College

The NEURON conference aims to provide a forum for neuroscience undergraduate and graduate students to discuss their work and to provide faculty an opportunity to discuss curricular and research issues in neuroscience, biopsychology and related areas.

For more information, please contact Adrienne Betz, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Quinnipiac, at