Dr. Antonello Bonci Interview

Uploaded by NIDANIH on 13.03.2012

Antonello Bonci: I became interested in the brain
as I was a child.
As a matter of fact, what I've been always intrigued
by are complex behaviors.
Why people make certain decisions, good or bad, and what
is it that's controlling behaviors such as in psychiatry
and neurology, and in the normal life, so that's why I started
to study brain activity and using electrophysiology because
it's a way to really get into how brain cells communicate
with each other, and if you associate these brain
changes in electrical activity with behaviors,
you can really begin to understand how
the brain language,
how the code of activity is connected
to those behavior center.
It's an incredibly fascinating world that I've been -- always
been attracted to, so that's why I started that.
That's a series of studies that we started in 2001
when we showed basically that, even a single
exposure to a drug,
such as cocaine, produces a form of cellular memory.
In very simple words, the cellular memory's called long
term potentiation and it tells you that brain connections,
synapses, are modified and changed after seeing cocaine
for a very long time.
This is why it's called long term.
Long time for synapses means days or weeks or even months,
and as you know, the brain communicates with -- between
brain cells in a matter of milliseconds, so this is why
we call them long term changes and we believe
-- we and many others
that have followed up on our work, believe that these
cellular memory called also synaptic plasticity is one
of the fundamental mechanisms
that is controlling vulnerability to
become addicted, so this is a very prominent areas of starting
for many scientist in the field of substance abuse,
and we believe it's extremely important.
The most promising research being done at the IRP
[phonetic] is done by actually several investigators.
It's a phenomenal group of people, both clinical and basic
scientists, and basically we focused a lot on molecular
tools, novel molecular tools, that can really unfold the basic
cellular mechanisms and causes of substance abuse.
That's the promise for the future, these are called
optogenetic tools or new molecular transgenic mice,
for example, that were done in intramural research program,
and new behavioral models to study substance abuse,
new molecular targets that are being discovered by my principal
investigators, so many different lines of research, both basic
and clinical, that all help each other and converge together,
and I really invite everyone to take a look at the website
because there's too much to say in such a little amount of time.
Even if I started just a year ago, my vision for the
intramural program is to allow my scientists to really do
cutting edge, high-risk, very innovative research that is very
difficult to be done in the extramural program, so that's
my goal, that's my hope, and that is what I'm really trying
to implement one day at a time in the intramural program.