Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Stanford University, NEURS-PHD (2023)
  • PhD, Stanford University, Neurosciences (2023)

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Modulation of 5-HT release by dynorphin mediates social deficits during opioid withdrawal. Neuron Pomrenze, M. B., Cardozo Pinto, D. F., Neumann, P. A., Llorach, P., Tucciarone, J. M., Morishita, W., Eshel, N., Heifets, B. D., Malenka, R. C. 2022


    Social isolation during opioid withdrawal is a major contributor to the current opioid addiction crisis. We find that sociability deficits during protracted opioid withdrawal in mice require activation of kappa opioid receptors (KORs) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) medial shell. Blockade of release from dynorphin (Pdyn)-expressing dorsal raphe neurons (DRPdyn), but not from NAcPdyn neurons, prevents these deficits in prosocial behaviors. Conversely, optogenetic activation of DRPdyn neurons reproduced NAc KOR-dependent decreases in sociability. Deletion of KORs from serotonin (5-HT) neurons, but not from NAc neurons or dopamine (DA) neurons, prevented sociability deficits during withdrawal. Finally, measurements with the genetically encoded GRAB5-HT sensor revealed that during withdrawal KORs block the NAc 5-HT release that normally occurs during social interactions. These results define a neuromodulatory mechanism that is engaged during protracted opioid withdrawal to induce maladaptive deficits in prosocial behaviors, which in humans contribute to relapse.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2022.09.024

    View details for PubMedID 36202097

  • Characterization of transgenic mouse models targeting neuromodulatory systems reveals organizational principles of the dorsal raphe. Nature communications Cardozo Pinto, D. F., Yang, H. n., Pollak Dorocic, I. n., de Jong, J. W., Han, V. J., Peck, J. R., Zhu, Y. n., Liu, C. n., Beier, K. T., Smidt, M. P., Lammel, S. n. 2019; 10 (1): 4633


    The dorsal raphe (DR) is a heterogeneous nucleus containing dopamine (DA), serotonin (5HT), γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate neurons. Consequently, investigations of DR circuitry require Cre-driver lines that restrict transgene expression to precisely defined cell populations. Here, we present a systematic evaluation of mouse lines targeting neuromodulatory cells in the DR. We find substantial differences in specificity between lines targeting DA neurons, and in penetrance between lines targeting 5HT neurons. Using these tools to map DR circuits, we show that populations of neurochemically distinct DR neurons are arranged in a stereotyped topographical pattern, send divergent projections to amygdala subnuclei, and differ in their presynaptic inputs. Importantly, targeting DR DA neurons using different mouse lines yielded both structural and functional differences in the neural circuits accessed. These results provide a refined model of DR organization and support a comparative, case-by-case evaluation of the suitability of transgenic tools for any experimental application.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-019-12392-2

    View details for PubMedID 31604921

  • Striatal dopamine integrates cost, benefit, and motivation. Neuron Eshel, N., Touponse, G. C., Wang, A. R., Osterman, A. K., Shank, A. N., Groome, A. M., Taniguchi, L., Cardozo Pinto, D. F., Tucciarone, J., Bentzley, B. S., Malenka, R. C. 2023


    Striatal dopamine (DA) release has long been linked to reward processing, but it remains controversial whether DA release reflects costs or benefits and how these signals vary with motivation. Here, we measure DA release in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and dorsolateral striatum (DLS) while independently varying costs and benefits and apply behavioral economic principles to determine a mouse's level of motivation. We reveal that DA release in both structures incorporates both reward magnitude and sunk cost. Surprisingly, motivation was inversely correlated with reward-evoked DA release. Furthermore, optogenetically evoked DA release was also heavily dependent on sunk cost. Our results reconcile previous disparate findings by demonstrating that striatal DA release simultaneously encodes cost, benefit, and motivation but in distinct manners over different timescales. Future work will be necessary to determine whether the reduction in phasic DA release in highly motivated animals is due to changes in tonic DA levels.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2023.10.038

    View details for PubMedID 38016471

  • Systemic enhancement of serotonin signaling reverses social deficits in multiple mouse models for ASD. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Walsh, J. J., Llorach, P., Cardozo Pinto, D. F., Wenderski, W., Christoffel, D. J., Salgado, J. S., Heifets, B. D., Crabtree, G. R., Malenka, R. C. 2021


    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common set of heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorders resulting from a variety of genetic and environmental risk factors. A core feature of ASD is impairment in prosocial interactions. Current treatment options for individuals diagnosed with ASD are limited, with no current FDA-approved medications that effectively treat its core symptoms. We recently demonstrated that enhanced serotonin (5-HT) activity in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), via optogenetic activation of 5-HTergic inputs or direct infusion of a specific 5-HT1b receptor agonist, reverses social deficits in a genetic mouse model for ASD based on 16p11.2 copy number variation. Furthermore, the recreational drug MDMA, which is currently being evaluated in clinical trials, promotes sociability in mice due to its 5-HT releasing properties in the NAc. Here, we systematically evaluated the ability of MDMA and a selective 5-HT1b receptor agonist to rescue sociability deficits in multiple different mouse models for ASD. We find that MDMA administration enhances sociability in control mice and reverses sociability deficits in all four ASD mouse models examined, whereas administration of a 5-HT1b receptor agonist selectively rescued the sociability deficits in all six mouse models for ASD. These preclinical findings suggest that pharmacological enhancement of 5-HT release or direct 5-HT1b receptor activation may be therapeutically efficacious in ameliorating some of the core sociability deficits present across etiologically distinct presentations of ASD.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41386-021-01091-6

    View details for PubMedID 34239048

  • A New Look at the Role of Mesoamygdaloid Dopamine Neurons in Aversive Conditioning. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience Cardozo Pinto, D. F., Taniguchi, L. n., Norville, Z. C., Pomrenze, M. B. 2020; 40 (40): 7590–92

    View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1483-20.2020

    View details for PubMedID 32998956

  • Hot topic in optogenetics: new implications of in vivo tissue heating. Nature neuroscience Cardozo Pinto, D. F., Lammel, S. 2019

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41593-019-0426-z

    View details for PubMedID 31209377

  • Distinct neural mechanisms for the prosocial and rewarding properties of MDMA. Science translational medicine Heifets, B. D., Salgado, J. S., Taylor, M. D., Hoerbelt, P. n., Cardozo Pinto, D. F., Steinberg, E. E., Walsh, J. J., Sze, J. Y., Malenka, R. C. 2019; 11 (522)


    The extensively abused recreational drug (±)3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) has shown promise as an adjunct to psychotherapy for treatment-resistant psychiatric disease. It is unknown, however, whether the mechanisms underlying its prosocial therapeutic effects and abuse potential are distinct. We modeled both the prosocial and nonsocial drug reward of MDMA in mice and investigated the mechanism of these processes using brain region-specific pharmacology, transgenic manipulations, electrophysiology, and in vivo calcium imaging. We demonstrate in mice that MDMA acting at the serotonin transporter within the nucleus accumbens is necessary and sufficient for MDMA's prosocial effect. MDMA's acute rewarding properties, in contrast, require dopaminergic signaling. MDMA's prosocial effect requires 5-HT1b receptor activation and is mimicked by d-fenfluramine, a selective serotonin-releasing compound. By dissociating the mechanisms of MDMA's prosocial effects from its addictive properties, we provide evidence for a conserved neuronal pathway, which can be leveraged to develop novel therapeutics with limited abuse liability.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaw6435

    View details for PubMedID 31826983

  • Viral vector strategies for investigating midbrain dopamine circuits underlying motivated behaviors. Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior Cardozo Pinto, D. F., Lammel, S. 2018; 174: 23-32


    Midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons have received significant attention in brain research because of their central role in reward processing and their dysfunction in neuropsychiatric disorders such as Parkinson's disease, drug addiction, depression and schizophrenia. Until recently, it has been thought that DA neurons form a homogeneous population whose primary function is the computation of reward prediction errors. However, through the implementation of viral vector strategies, an unexpected complexity and diversity has been revealed at the anatomical, molecular and functional level. In this review, we discuss recent viral vector approaches that have been leveraged to dissect how different circuits involving distinct DA neuron subpopulations may contribute to the role of DA in reward- and aversion-related behaviors. We focus on studies that have used cell type- and projection-specific optogenetic manipulations, discuss the strengths and limitations of each approach, and critically examine emergent organizational principles that have led to a reclassification of midbrain DA neurons.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.pbb.2017.02.006

    View details for PubMedID 28257849