The Director

The Director

Roberto Ciccocioppo

Head of the School of Advanced Studies

Professor of Pharmacology


The main research focus of the team I coordinate is on the study of the neurobiological basis of abnormal behavioral and brain functions relevant to human psychopathology with emphasis on drug addiction and eating 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 is also dedicated to the study of neurocircuitry and molecular mechanisms controlling emotional and cognitive disturbances associated with protracted exposure to drugs of abuse or chronic stress.

This research work is carried out in collaboration with other national and international high reputation research and academic institutions. These include the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, (CA), The National Institute of Health/NIAAAA Bethesda (MD), The Medical University of South Carolina,  Charleston (SC) and many others.  Over the years our research activity has been supported by several research grants received from the EU  (TARGALC and INFONOMIC, FP5 and FP6 programs), and from the NIH/NIAAA  and NIH/NIDA (three RO1). Our laboratory has published over 200 scientific articles in qualified international journals, including Nature Neuroscience, Science Advances, Neuron, JAMA Psychiatry, The Journal of Neuroscience, PNAS, Biological Psychiatry, Neuropsychopharmacology.


List of selected publications  

De Santis S, Cosa-Linan A, Garcia-Hernandez R, Dmytrenko L, Vargova L, Vorisek I, Stopponi S, Bach P, Kirsch P, Kiefer F, Ciccocioppo R, Sykova E, Moratal D, Sommer WH, Canals S.Chronic alcohol consumption alters extracellular space geometry and transmitter diffusion in the brain. Science  Advances. 2020 Jun 24;6(26):

Fotio Y, Borruto AM, Benvenuti F, Demopulos G, Gaitanaris G, Roberto M, Ciccocioppo R Activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ reduces alcohol drinking and seeking by modulating multiple mesocorticolimbic regions in rats. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2020

De Santis S, Bach P, Pérez-Cervera L, Cosa-Linan A, Weil G, Vollstädt-Klein S, Hermann D, Kiefer F, Kirsch P, Ciccocioppo R, Sommer WH, Canals S.Microstructural White Matter Alterations in Men With Alcohol Use Disorder and Rats With Excessive Alcohol Consumption During Early Abstinence. JAMA Psychiatry. 2019 Jul 1;76(7):749-758.

de Guglielmo G, Melis M, De Luca MA, Kallupi M, Li HW, Niswender K, Giordano A, Senzacqua M, Somaini L, Cippitelli A, Gaitanaris G, Demopulos G, Damadzic R, Tapocik J, Heilig M, Ciccocioppo R.  PPARγ Activation Attenuates Opioid Consumption and Modulates Mesolimbic Dopamine Transmission. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015;40:927-37

Micioni Di Bonaventura MV, Ciccocioppo R, Romano A, Bossert JM, Rice KC, Ubaldi M, St Laurent R, Gaetani S, Massi M, Shaham Y, Cifani C. Role of bed nucleus of the stria terminalis corticotrophin-releasing factor receptors in frustration stress-induced binge-like palatable food consumption in female rats with a history of food restriction. J Neurosci. 2014;34(34):11316-24.

Ciccocioppo R, de Guglielmo G, Hansson AC, Ubaldi M, Kallupi M, Cruz MT, Oleata CS, Heilig M, Roberto M. Restraint stress alters nociceptin/orphanin FQ and CRF systems in the rat central amygdala: significance for anxiety-like behaviors. J Neurosci. 2014;34:363-72

Ciccocioppo R, Stopponi S, Economidou D, Kuriyama M, Kinoshita H, Heilig M, Roberto M, Weiss F, Teshima K. Chronic treatment with novel brain-penetrating selective NOP receptor agonist MT-7716 reduces alcohol drinking and seeking in the rat.  Neuropsychopharmacology. 2014;39:2601-10.

Schank JR, Ryabinin AE, Giardino WJ, Ciccocioppo R, Heilig M Stress-related neuropeptides and addictive behaviors: beyond the usual suspects. Neuron. 2012 Oct 4;76(1):192-208.

Kallupi M, Cannella N, Ruggeri B, Ubaldi M, Economidou D, Weiss F, Massi M, Marugan J, Heilig M, de Lecea L,  Ciccocioppo R. Role for the Neuropeptide S system in the physiopathology of  cue-induced cocaine relapse: A mechanism mediated by the hypothalamic hypocretin system. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2010;107:19567-72.

Hansson AC, Cippitelli A, Sommer WH, Fedeli A, Bjork K, Soverchia L, Terasmaa A, Massi M, Heilig M, Ciccocioppo R. Variation at the rat Crhr1 locus and sensitivity to relapse into alcohol seeking induced by environmental stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Oct 10;103(41):15236-41.

Ciccocioppo R, Martin-Fardon R, Weiss F. Stimuli associated with a single cocaine experience elicit long-lasting cocaine-seeking. Nat Neurosci. 2004 May;7(5):495-6. Epub 2004 Mar 28.

Ciccocioppo R, Fedeli A, Economidou D, Policani F, Weiss F, Massi M. The bed nucleus is a neuroanatomical substrate for the anorectic effect of corticotropin-releasing factor and for its reversal by nociceptin/orphanin FQ. J Neurosci. 2003 Oct 15;23(28):9445-51.

Ciccocioppo R, Sanna PP, Weiss F. Cocaine-predictive stimulus induces drug-seeking behavior and neural activation in limbic brain regions after multiple months of abstinence: reversal by D(1) antagonists. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Feb 13;98(4):1976-81