Neuropsychopharmacology

Neuropsychopharmacology

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Head of Unit

Flavia Valtorta

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The main topics of Valtorta’s lab research activity relate to the study of the molecular mechanisms underlying the processes of neuronal development and synaptic function, with emphasis on membrane trafficking, cytoskeletal dynamics and protein phosphorylation events. The recognition that synapse dysfunction is a major determinant of many neurological and psychiatric diseases has led to the concept of synaptopathies.

Research activity

The group has applied its extensive experience in the study of synapse development and function to the study of the molecular mechanisms underlying various synaptopathies. The long-term goal of this project is to decipher the molecular mechanisms through which mutations in genes coding proteins involved in neuronal membrane trafficking lead to neurological disorders, with an emphasis on epilepsy, mental retardation and autism spectrum disorders. Since it is now accepted that impairment of synaptic function is an early event also in diseases previously thought to be essentially neurodegenerative (e.g. Parkinson disease) or neuroinflammatory (e.g. multiple sclerosis), the unit is extending their research also to these disorders. They believe that a better understanding of synaptic physiology and of its alteration in synaptopathies may drive a transition from a disease classification based on phenomenology to one based on pathophysiological underpinnings. Such a shift will offer novel clues for the development of therapeutic strategies.