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Davide Dulcis, PhD

Associate Professor in Residence
Department of Psychiatry

Contact Information

Mailing address:
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive MC 0603
La Jolla, CA 92093-0603

Office: 858.822.1505
Lab: 858.534.0385



Neurotransmitter plasticity affecting behavior

Dr. Dulcis' research projects focus on circuit-specific respecification of neurotransmitters in the developing and adult brain. His studies have shown that altering the activation of a simple neural circuit in the postembryonic brain by a natural stimulus (ambient light) changes the numbers of neurons expressing dopamine (Nature, 2008).

Significantly, Dr. Dulcis found that newly dopaminergic neurons serve the same behavior as the native population of dopaminergic neurons. He discovered behaviorally relevant transmitter switching in the mature nervous system (Science, 2013).

In his laboratory, Dr. Dulcis is testing the generality of this novel form of calcium activity-dependent plasticity (J. Neuroscience, 2011). He hypothesizes that other sensory modalities as well as psychostimulants, induce transmitter switching in neurons of the activated circuits affecting behavior (Develop. Neurobiology, 2012). Evaluating the ubiquity of activity-dependent transmitter switching is critical to determining the translational applicability (J. Chem. Neuroanatomy, 2015) of such neurotransmitter plasticity. Importantly, the underlying molecular and activity-dependent mechanism as well as its gene regulation can be probed with great sophistication using transgenic mice. Dr. Dulcis is currently carrying out studies to uncover the cellular mechanism and signaling of this novel form of neuroplasticity and test whether selective circuit activation promotes transmitter respecification affecting behaviors in translational animal models relevant for a variety of neuropsychiatric conditions including depression (Europ. J. Pharmacology, 2015), addiction, and Parkinson’s disease.

1. D. DULCIS*, G. Lippi, L. Do, C. Stark, D.K. Berg, N.C. Spitzer (submitted) “Neurotransmitter switching regulates changes in social preference”.

2. D. DULCIS** (2016) “Activity-dependent Neurotransmitter Plasticity” J. Chemical Neuroanatomy. **Guest editor of Special Issue – Volume 73:1-42 and Issue cover.

3. D. DULCIS* (2015) “The ever-changing brain: Clinical implications” J. Chemical Neuroanatomy 73:1-2.

4. J.W. Young and D. DULCIS* (2015) “Investigating the mechanisms underlying switching between states in bipolar disorder” European J. Pharmacol. 759:151-162.

5. D. DULCIS*, P. Jamshidi, S. Leutgeb, and N.C. Spitzer (2013) “Neurotransmitter switching in the adult brain regulates behavior”. Science 340:449-453.

6. D. DULCIS* and N.C. Spitzer (2012) “Reserve pool neuron transmitter respecification: novel neuroplasticity”. Developmental Neurobiology 72:465-474.

7. N. Velázquez-Ulloa, N.C. Spitzer, D. DULCIS* (2011) “Contexts for dopamine specification by calcium spike activity in the central nervous system” J. Neuroscience 31: 78-88.

8. D. DULCIS* and N.C. Spitzer (2008) “Illumination controls differentiation of dopamine neurons regulating behavior”. Nature 456:195-201.