Prof. Antonello Bonci, MD

Prof. Antonello Bonci, MD joined the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2010 as Scientific Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). He was a professor in residence in the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and held the Howard J. Weinberg Endowed Chair in Addiction Research; as well as Associate Director for Extramural Affairs at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center.


Dr. Bonci’s laboratory was the first to demonstrate that drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, produce long-lasting modifications on the strength of the connections between neurons. This form of cellular memory is called long-term potentiation (LTP.) This finding cast a new light on the phenomenon of drug addiction, which could now be seen as a process of maladaptive learning and memory at the cellular level. In turn, this information helped explain why drug taking can often become such a long-lasting phenomenon, with relapse occurring even several years after the last encounter with a drug. Subsequently, his work has used a combination of electrophysiology, optogenetic, molecular and behavioral procedures to keep studying the basic cellular mechanisms and circuits underlying reward and substance use disorders.


He is currently in the process of developing an optotenetic-based treatment against cocaine use disorders, by using transcranial magnetic stimulation. Dr. Bonci’s areas of research interest include: neuroscience, synaptic plasticity, optogenetics, drug abuse, and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

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