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Département des Neurosciences
Fondamentales & Service de Neurologie
Rue Michel Servet
1211-4 - Genève

+41 22 379 54-50 or -23
+41 22 3795452

Job opportunities

Prof Christian Lüscher
Cellular Mechanisms of Dependence and Addiction
Neurosciences Fondamentales at Geneva

Research Area

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:


Padgett CL., Lalive AL., Tan KR., Terunuma M., Munoz MB., Pangalos MN., Martinez-Hernandez J., Watanabe W., Moss SJ., Lujan R., Lüscher C., and  Slesinger PA.(2012) Methamphetamine-evoked depression of GABA(B) receptor signaling in GABA neurons of the VTA. Neuron., 73 (5) : 978-89.

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

Lalive AL., Rudolph U., Lüscher C., Tan KR. (2011) Is there a way to curb benzodiazepine addiction? Swiss Med Wkly., 141 : w13277.

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

Terrier J., Ort A., Yvon C., Saj A., Vuilleumier P., Lüscher C. (2011) Bi-directional effect of increasing doses of baclofen on reinforcement learning. Front. Behav. Neurosci., 5:40.


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)

Technical Expertise