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Valter Francesconi, Ph.D.

Associate Professor Adjunct
Department of Molecular Medicine
California Campus
Laboratory Website
Scripps VIVO Scientific Profile
wfranc@scripps.edu
(858) 784-8636

Research Focus

The research interests of this laboratory focus on the integrative and dynamical properties of neurons in brain regions involved in the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse, and alcohol consumption. In particular, the goal of our studies is to investigate the integrative and dynamical properties of neurons in the juxtacapsular bed nucleus of stria terminalis (jcBNST, a central element of the extended amygdala circuits) in relation to their intrinsic biophysical properties both in normal and in dependent animals. To address these issues we use a computer-based electrophysiological technique referred to as dynamic clamp in brain slice. The dynamic clamp, sometimes referred to as conductance injection, is a form of intracellular stimulation where a simulated synaptic and/or voltage-dependent intrinsic conductance is being injected in real-time while the voltage output of the neuron is continuously monitored by computer. The novelty of this approach, in the field of drugs of abuse, is that this technique allows researchers to study cellular dynamics and circuit interactions with great accuracy and temporal resolution while maintaining the neurons in a high conductance state, similar to that in the intact brain in vivo. Dynamic clamp technique allows to study how changes of neuronal intrinsic properties induced by drug abuse impact neuronal output, resonance and firing pattern structure.

Education

Ph.D., Biology, University of Pisa, Italy, 1971

Professional Experience

 

Selected References

All Publications

Szücs A, Berton F, Sanna PP, Francesconi W. Excitability of jcBNST neurons is reduced in alcohol-dependent animals during protracted alcohol withdrawal. PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42313.

Szücs A., Berton F., Nowotny T., Selverston A.I., Sanna P., and Francesconi W. Spiking dynamics in the neurons of the juxtacapsular bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (jcBNST). PLoS One :e11920 (2010).

Impaired LTP of intrinsic excitability in the BNST is a key element of protracted abstinence from drugs of abuse. J Neurosci. 29(17):5389-401 (2009).