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Marinelli, Michela

Michela Marinelli

Associate Professor, Associate Professor (Medical)
Department of Neuroscience, Department of Neurology

neuroscience of addiction and motivation


Phone: 512-471-0080

Office Location
HDB 5.318

Postal Address
AUSTIN, TX 78712

Our research focuses on understanding the biological bases of addiction. We use a combination of models that are associated with increased addiction liability, such as that associated with age (i.e. adolescence), naturally-occurring within outbred populations (i.e. inter-individual differences), or induced by exposure to drugs and to stress. Throughout our studies, we use a systems-approach, combining complementary levels of analysis, which include molecular (protein expression), cellular (neuronal activity and synaptic transmission using in vivo and ex vivo electrophysiology), anatomical (optogenetics and functional neuroanatomy), and behavioral studies (self-administration). By combining these levels of analysis, it is possible to answer questions of behavioral relevance at multiple levels, in the hope of gaining more insight on the mechanisms and treatment strategies for addiction.

McCutcheon JE, Wang X, Tseng KY, Wolf ME, Marinelli M. Calcium-permeable AMPA receptors are present in nucleus accumbens synapses after prolonged withdrawal from cocaine self-administration but not experimenter-administered cocaine. J Neurosci (2011) 31:5737-5743.

McCutcheon JE, Loweth JA, Ford KA, Marinelli M, Wolf ME, Tseng KY. Group I mGluR activation reverses cocaine-induced accumulation of calcium-permeable AMPA receptors in nucleus accumbens synapses via a protein kinase C-dependent mechanism. J Neurosci (2011) 31:14536-14541.

McCutcheon JE, Conrad KL, Carr SB, Ford KA, McGehee DS, Marinelli M. Dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area fire faster in adolescent rats than in adults. J Neurophysiol (2012) 108:1620-1630.

Wong WC, Ford KA, Pagels NE, McCutcheon JE, Marinelli M. Adolescents are more vulnerable to cocaine addiction: behavioral and electrophysiological evidence. J Neurosci (2013) 33:4913-4922.

Wang X, Cahill ME, Werner C, Christoffel D, Golden S, Xie Z, Loweth J, Marinelli M, Russo S, Penzes P, Wolf ME. Kalirin-7 mediates cocaine-induced AMPA receptor and spine plasticity, enabling incentive sensitization. J Neurosci (2013) 33:11012-11022.

Marinelli M, McCutcheon JE. Heterogeneity of dopamine neuron activity across traits and states. Neurosci (2014) 282:176-197

Wong WC, Marinelli M. Adolescent-onset of cocaine use is associated with heightened stress-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking. Addiction Biol (2016) 21:634-645.


Hankosky ER, Westbrook SR, Haake RM, Marinelli M, Gulley JM. Reduced sensitivity to reinforcement in adolescent compared to adult Sprague-Dawley rats of both sexes. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2018 Mar; 235(3): 861–871. 


Gordon-Fennel AG, Will RG, Ramachandra V, Gordon-Fennell LJ, Dominguez JM, Zahm DS, Marinelli M. The lateral preoptic area: a novel regulator of reward seeking and neuronal activity in the ventral tegmental area. Frontiers in Neurosci (2020) 13:1-17.