Professor Rodrigo A. Cunha The Center for Neuroscience Coimbra – The Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC) Coimbra


Team Lead

About Professor Rodrigo A. Cunha

Rodrigo A. Cunha is an Associated Professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra and Principal Investigator at the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology of the University of Coimbra (CNC). He is part of the Steering Committee of the European Neuroscience Campus and the National representative of the Network of European Neuroscience Institutes. He heads the group ‘Purines at CNC’, focusing on caffeine neuroprotection and purinergic modulation; his group is constituted by 5 resident PhD researchers, 1 technician, 9 post-docs and 11 PhD students. He has published over 175 papers with an h factor of 47. He has trained over 25 PhD students and 10 post-doctoral fellows.


Neuromodulation by adenosine and ATP in the nervous system: adenosine and ATP receptors (expression, binding characteristics, coupling to transducing systems, desensitisation), formation and inactivation of ATP and adenosine, physiological roles (control of neurotransmitter release, of ion channels and of synaptic transmission and plasticity) and role in physio-pathology (aging, hypoxia, epilepsy, diabetic neuropathies, stress, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, neuro-inflammation).

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5 Selected Publications over the last five years

Li P, Rial R, Canas PM, Yoo JH, Li W, Zhou X, Wang Y, van Westen GJP, Payen MP, Augusto E, Gonçalves N, Tomé AR, Li Z, Wu Z, Hou X, Zhou Y, IJzerman AP, Boyden ES, Cunha RA, Qu J, Chen JF (2015) Optogenetic activation of intracellular adenosine A2A receptor signaling in hippocampus is sufficient to trigger CREB phosphorylation and impair memory. Mol Psychiatry (in press) .

Wei CJ, Augusto E, Gomes CA, Singer P, Wang Y, Boison D, Cunha RA, Yee BK, Chen JF (2014) Regulation of fear responses by striatal and extra-striatal adenosine A2A receptors in forebrain. Biol Psychiatry 75, 855-63.

Silva, C.G., Métin, C., Fazeli, W., Machado, N.J., Darmopil, S., Launay, P.S., Ghestem, A., Nesa, M.P., Bassot, E., Szabó, E., Baqi, Y., Müller, C.E., Tomé, A.R., Ivanov, A., Isbrandt, D., Zilberter, Y., Cunha, RA., Esclapez, M., Bernard, C. (2013) Adenosine receptor antagonists including caffeine alter fetal brain development in mice. Science Transl Med 5: 197ra104.

Gonçalves N, Simões AT, Cunha RA, Pereira de Almeida L (2013) Caffeine and adenosine A2A receptor inactivation decrease striatal neuropathology in a lentiviral-based model of Machado-Joseph disease. Ann Neurol 73, 655-66.

Augusto E, Matos M, Sévigny J, El-Tayeb A, Bynoe MS, Muller CE, Cunha RA, Chen JF (2013) Ecto-5'-nucleotidase (CD73)-mediated formation of adenosine is critical for the striatal adenosine A2A receptor functions. J Neurosci 33, 11390-9.


2011     MIT-Portugal Award of Teaching Excellence
2004     Neurodegenerative Diseases Award, Portuguese Society for Neuroscience
2002     Pfizer Award nomination
2002     Servier Young Investigator Award
1997     UCB Award of Pharmacology
1995     Stimulus to Investigation Award, Gulbenkian Foundation
1994     'Boa Esperança' Award nomination

Research Interests and Areas of Expertise

  • Synaptic transmission and plasticity
  • Receptor characterization
  • Behavioral analysis
  • Neuropharmacology
  • Neurochemistry
  • Electrophysiology
  • Neurophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Biochemistry
  • Metabolic Regulation