Antonello Bonci, M.D. Scientific Director - Principal Investigators - The Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

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251 Bayview Boulevard,
Rm 04A521
Baltimore, MD 21224

Phone: (443) 740-2463


Antonello Bonci, M.D., Scientific Director

Chief, Synaptic Plasticity Section on-site page link

Post-doctoral Residence - Department of Neurology - University of California, San Francisco

M.D. - Sacred Heart School of Medicine - Rome, Italy


Chronic exposure to drugs of abuse causes several cellular and behavioral adaptations such as tolerance, dependence, and sensitization. The main goal of my laboratory is to understand the synaptic properties of neurons in brain areas relevant to drug addiction such as the ventral  tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), and the prefrontal cortex (PFC). My laboratory was the first to demonstrate that drugs of abuse such as cocaine produce a form of synaptic plasticity called long-term potentiation (LTP). The aim of my research is to apply electrophysiological, optogenetic, molecular, and behavioral approaches to elucidate the long-term effects that are produced by chronic administration of drugs of abuse such as cocaine and alcohol. Understanding the basic mechanisms at the synaptic level that underlie the long-term effects of these drugs will likely open new avenues for therapeutic strategies against the many symptoms of substance use disorders.

Selected Publications:
  1. M. Ungless, J. L. Whistler, R. C. Malenka and A. Bonci. Single cocaine exposure in vivo induces long-term potentiation in dopamine neurons. Nature. 2001; 31;411(6837):583-7.

  2. M. Ungless, V. Singh, T. Crowder, R. Yaka, D. Ron and A. Bonci. Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) requires CRF-binding protein to potentiate NMDA receptors via CRF receptor 2. Neuron. 2003; 39(3): 401-7.

  3. S. Borgland, S. Taha, H. L. Fields and A Bonci. Orexin A is critical for plasticity and behavioral sensitization to cocaine. Neuron, 2006; 49(4): 589-601.

  4. M. Martin, B. T. Chen, F. H. Hopf and A. Bonci. Cocaine self-administration selectively abolishes LTD in the core but not in the shell of the nucleus accumbens. Nature Neuroscience. 2006; 9(7): 868-9.

  5. Chen, M. Martin, M. S. Bowers, F. W. Hopf and A. Bonci. Persistent LTP in the VTA after cocaine self-administration. Neuron. 2008; 59(2): 288-97.

  6. G.D. Stuber, M. Klanker, B. de Ridder, M. S. Bowers, R. N. Joosten, M. G. Feenstra and A. Bonci. Reward predictive cues enhance excitatory synaptic strength onto midbrain dopamine neurons. Science. 2008; 19; 321(5896): 1690-2.

  7. W. Hopf, M. S. Bowers, B. T. Chen, M. Martin, A. Guillory, M. Mohamedi, S.J. Chang, S. Cho, and A. Bonci. Reduced nucleus accumbens SK channel activity enhances motivation for alcohol during abstinence. Neuron. 2010; 65(5):682-94.

  8. K. M. Tye, L. Tye, J. J. Cone, P. H. Janak and A. Bonci. Methylphenidate (Ritalin®) facilitates learning-induced amygdala plasticity. Nature Neuroscience. 2010; 13(4):475-81.

  9. G. D. Stuber, T. S. Hnasko, J. P. Britt, R. H. Edwards, and A. Bonci. Dopaminergic terminals in the nucleus accumbens but not the dorsal striatum co-release glutamate. Journal of Neuroscience. 2010; 30 (24): 8229-33.

  10. M. S. Bowers, B. T. Chen, and A. Bonci. AMPA receptor synaptic plasticity induced by psychostimulants: The past, present and therapeutic future. Neuron. 2010; 67(1): 11-24.

About Dr. Bonci's...

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the principal biomedical and behavioral research agency of the United States Government. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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