Professor Christian Lüscher Département des Neurosciences Fondamentales – Neurosciences Fondamentales at Geneva

Cellular Mechanisms of Dependence and Addiction

  • Département des Neurosciences Fondamentales
  • [email protected]
  • +41 22 379 54 44
  • +41 22 379 54 52
  • Switzerland

Team Lead

About Professor Christian Lüscher

Our lab studies the cellular mechanisms that underlie drug reinforcement and addiction. We believe that addiction can be understood as a sequence of neuroadaptive changes starting in the mesolimbic system, expanding to other parts of the brain with chronic use. Drug-evoked synaptic plasticity which refers to altered synaptic transmission that persists beyond the presence of the drug in the brain, may represent a trace that shapes circuit function and eventually leads to compulsive consumption. We study drug-evoked synaptic plasticity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the nucleus accumbens (NAc) with a wide range of methods including electrophysiology in vitro and in vivo. We also take advantage of genetic approaches to probe the role of specific proteins (e.g. knockout approaches) or manipulate the activity of identified neurons (e.g. optogenetics). Our work aims at correlating synaptic changes to behavior and design in vivo stimulation protocols to reverse drug-evoked plasticity to abolish drug-adapative behavior. 

Please see also:

Selected Publications

Pascoli V, Terrier J, Espallergues J, Valjent E, O'Connor EC, Lüscher C. Contrasting forms of cocaine-evoked plasticity control components of relapse. Nature . 2014 May 22;509(7501):459-64.

Claire L. Padgett, Arnaud L. Lalive, Kelly R. Tan, Miho Terunuma, Michaelanne B. Munoz, Menelas N. Pangalos, Jose Martinez-Hernandez, Masahiko Watanabe, Stephen J. Moss, Rafael Lujan, Christian Lüscher and Paul A. Slesinger. Methamphetamine-Evoked Depression of GABA(B) Receptor Signaling in GABA Neurons of the VTA. Neuron. 2012 Mar 8;73(5):978-89.

Pascoli V, Turiault M, Lüscher C. Reversal of cocaine-evoked synaptic potentiation resets drug-induced adaptive behaviour. Nature. 2011 Dec 7;481(7379):71-5.

Bellone C, Mameli M, Lüscher C. In utero exposure to cocaine delays postnatal synaptic maturation of glutamatergic transmission in the VTA. Nat Neurosci. 2011 Oct 2;14(11):1439-46

Awards, Fellowships and Honours

1999            Career Development Grant of the Swiss NSF (SCORE A) (until 2003)
1996            Postdoctoral Fellow at UCSF (Lab of Roger Nicoll) (until 1999)