The Synaptic Bases of Mental Diseases

Affiliated member : Manuel Mameli

Manuel Mameli

Giving clinicians all the tools they need

Manuel Mameli’s research is devoted to identifying the neural circuits involved in motivation. Here he explains how he sees his role as a neuroscientist helping to advance psychiatric clinical research.

Manuel Mameli is a neuroscience researcher with a background in basic biology. After a university education in Italy, he went to the University of New Mexico to train in neurophysiology. “It was an exotic destination for a scientist from Sardinia!” says Manuel of his transatlantic adventure. “It was decisive for my career because I was immersed in the American scientific environment”. After three years, Manuel decided to do a doctorate, joining Christian Lüscher’s laboratory at the University of Geneva, where he attended the Lemanic Neuroscience Doctoral School.

This was a period when the quality of the human relations and training, together with the high professional standards, convinced Manuel to extend his stay in Geneva with a post-doctorate. On subsequently obtaining a Chair of Excellence from the Paris Neuroscience Network, Manuel went to INSERM in Paris to conduct his own research before obtaining a prestigious ERC European Starting Grant. Since January 2017, he is an associate professor in the Department of Fundamental Neurosciences at the University of Lausanne.

Identifying motivational circuits

Mameli’s research aims to study the neural circuits and synaptic substrates involved in motivation; in other words, the reward and aversion systems. His laboratory analyses how patterns of psychiatric illnesses – such as addiction and depression – impact on these circuits and how they adapt to the phenotypes of these pathologies. His laboratory uses mouse models to achieve these aims.

Mameli’s research employs a fundamental approach in the hope that the cellular and mechanistic bases he discovers can be exploited to develop new treatments. “I supply tools and potential strategies to the community,” he says. It is a successful method that recently concluded with the filing of a patent that uses a molecule targeting a phosphatase to counteract depression –the result of a technology transfer in partnership with INSERM and Lixte Biotech Holdings, a New York-based pharmaceutical company.

Dissociating phenotypes to take things to the next level

Manuel, who is now firmly established in Vaud, believes that clinicians and scientists need to share a common language in order to stimulate the discovery of new psychiatric treatments. “Scientists must synthesize messages designed for clinicians, and clinicians have to understand what it means to do basic research. Researchers, for their part, need to have a broader view of diseases based on clinical data”. The second step, according to Manuel, is to build on the animal behavioral models used in basic research so as not to remain stuck on concepts: “Diseases must be compartmentalized and dissociated in syllables, to use a fashionable term, by means of phenotypes. The discovery of the pathways involved will then be more precise, meaning we can take things to the next level.”


His research-lab >


Author : Yann Bernardinelli, les Mots de la Science

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