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Arianna Maffei

Faculty Profile Maffei
PhD, University of Pavia

Phone: (631) 632-3244
Fax: (631) 632-6661


Arianna Maffei graduated in Biology from the University of Pavia (Italy) in 1997 and received a Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Pavia in 2002. She was a postdoctoral scholar at Brandeis University from 2002 to 2008. In 2008, she joined the faculty of the Department of Neurobiology & Behavior at Stony Brook and became Associate Professor with tenure in 2014 and promoted to Full Professor in 2020.

Dr. Maffei is the co-Chief editor of Frontiers in Cellular Neurophysiology, and is an associate editor for Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, The Journal of Neuroscience, and eNeuro. She is a member of the editorial board of iScience, and a member of the Society for Neuroscience and the Association for Chemoreception Sciences (AChemS).

Research Interests/Expertise

Laboratory of neural circuits and plasticity

What happens in the brain when we experience the world or learn something new?

Our goal is to unveil how experience and learning modify the connectivity and excitability of neuronal circuits and how these changes affect behavior. Much of our work focuses on how inhibitory transmission and plasticity sculpts cortical activity, and on the integration of excitation and inhibition in distinct neuron groups and circuits.

To gain information about general principles guiding the ability of neural circuits to respond to experience and learning, we perform our studies in three cortical regions that differ in anatomical organization and driving input: gustatory, visual and motor cortices. In addition to investigating healthy brain circuits, we apply our studies to animal models of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders to assess which aspects of neural circuit activity may be altered in pathological conditions.

We use manipulation of sensory drive, pharmacological, optogenetic or chemogenetic manipulations of specific neuron groups and/or behavioral training to perturb activity and analyze of circuits respond to change using behavioral analysis, electrophysiology in acute slice preparation and   in vivo  as well as calcium imaging.

Ongoing projects

Experience and learning in the gustatory cortex

The gustatory cortex receives prominent inputs from the gustatory thalamus, carrying information about the chemosensory identity of a tastant and from the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala, which informs about the hedonic value of a tastant. Indeed, something we eat is perceived by its taste, as well as whether its pleasant or aversive value. We are interested in understanding the synaptic basis for this perception. To do that, we are analyzing the synaptic organization and plasticity of amygdalocortical and thalamocortical inputs onto excitatory and GABAergic inhibitory neurons in the gustatory cortex.

We also use a well-established learning paradigm known as conditioned taste aversion (CTA) that renders unpleasant a previously pleasant taste without altering its chemosensory identity, to determine how CTA learning affects the activity of single neurons and circuits in the gustatory cortex. Our goal is to identify the synaptic changes induced by learning and the components of the circuit that support a change in perception.

In addition, we investigate the mechanisms underlying the postnatal maturation processes of the circuit in the gustatory cortex to determine whether early life diet influences cortical development and food preferences in adulthood. This work has important implications both for our understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders, some of which are associated with poor nutrition in early development, and for investigating the neural basis of eating disorders.

Additional studies address differences in thalamocortical circuit organization across cortices, gustatory, motor and visual, as well as the role of neuromodulators in neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission.

Dr. Maffei is also a contributor to a collaborative project aimed at investigating the circuit and network mechanisms of metastable dynamics.

  • Recent Publications

    O.K. Swanson, R. Semaan and A. Maffei (under revision) Distinct mechanisms for acute and chronic dopaminergic modulation of M1 neurons excitability. Preprint @ BioRxiv: 2020.02.12.946301; doi:

    O.K. Swanson, D. Richard and A. Maffei (under revision) Altered Thalamocortical Signaling in a Mouse Model of Parkinson's Disease. Preprint @ BioRxiv: 2020.07.27.223222; doi:

    M. Capogna, A. Maffei and P.E. Castillo (2020) Mechanisms and function of inhibitory plasticity. Special Topic European Journal of Neuroscience. Eur. J. Neurosci. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14907. Online ahead of print.

    M.S. Haley, A. Fontanini and A. Maffei (2020) LTD at amygdalocortical synapses as a novel mechanism for hedonic learning. eLife: in Press. See also @ BioRxiv: 753590; doi:

    M. Stone, A. Fontanini and A. Maffei (2020) Dynamics of integration of thalamic and limbic inputs in rodent gustatory cortex. ENEURO.0199-19.2019. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0199-19.2019

    O.K. Swanson and A. Maffei (2019) From hiring to firing: activation of inhibitory neurons and their recruitment in behavior. Front. Molecular Neuroscience. 12:168. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2019.00168. Special Topic on Emerging Mechanisms of inhibitory synaptic transmission

    L. Wang, M.L. Kloc, E. Maher, A. Erisir and   A. Maffei  (2019) Presynaptic GABA A  receptors at thalamocortical synapses in rat V1.   Cereb. Cortex, 1:16. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhx364.

    M. Chavali, M. Klingener, A. Kokkosis, Y. Garkun,   A. Maffei  and A. Aguirre (2018) Non-Canonical Wnt Signaling Regulates Neural Stem Cell Quiescence During Homeostasis and After Demyelination.   Nature Comm. 9(1):36.

    A. Maffei  (2017) LTP and LTD.   Oxford Encyclopedia of Neuroscience

    A. Maffei, C. Charrier, M. Caiati, A. Barberis, V. Mahadevan, M.A. Woodin and S. Tyagarajan (2017) Emerging mechanisms underlying dynamics of GABAergic synapses.   J. Neurosci. 37(45):10792-10799

    M.S. Haley and  A. Maffei  (2017) Versatility and flexibility of cortical circuits.   The Neuroscientist, 24(5):456-470. doi: 10.1177/1073858417733720

    R. Tatti, M.S. Haley, O.K. Swanson, T. Tselha and   A. Maffei  (2017) Neurophysiology and regulation of the balance between excitation and inhibition in neocortical circuits.   Biological Psychiatry, 81: 821-31.

    R. Tatti, O. Swanson, M. S. Lee and   A. Maffei  (2017) Layer-specific developmental changes in excitation and inhibition in rat primary visual cortex.   eNeuro, 4(6). pii: ENEURO.0402-17.2017

    T. Griffen, M. S. Haley, A. Fontanini and   A. Maffei  (2017) Rapid plasticity of visually evoked responses in rat monocular visual cortex.   PLoS One, 12(9): e0184618

    A. Maffei   (2016) Fifty Shades of Inhibition.   Curr. Op. Neurobiol. 43: 43-47.

    M. Haley, A. Fontanini and   A. Maffei  (2016) Laminar and target-specific properties of amygdalar inputs to rat primary gustatory cortex.   J. Neurosci. 36: 2623-37

    F. Birey, M. Kloc, D. J. Christoffel, S. Russo, J. K. Robinson,   A. Maffei  and A. Aguirre (2015) NG2+ glial cells participate in normal brain physiology and the development of depressive-like behaviors.   Neuron, 88: 941-956.

    K.Krishnan, B.S.Wang, J.Lu, L.Wang,   A. Maffei, J.Cang and J.Z.Huang (2015) MeCP2 regulates the maturation of GABA signaling and critical period plasticity that shape experience-dependent functional connectivity in primary visual cortex.   PNAS, 112: 4782-91.

    T.Griffen and   A. Maffei  (2014) Experience-dependent refinement: GABAergic synapses and their plasticity. Special Issue on GABAergic plasticity.   Front. Cell. Neurosci. 8: 91 doi:10.3389/fncel.2014.00091

    M.L. Kloc and   A. Maffei  (2014) Cell type-specific properties of thalamocortical inputs in rodent primary visual cortex.   J. Neurosci.  34: 13455-65.

    S.D. VanHooser, G.M.Escobar,   A. Maffei  and P. Miller. (2014) Emerging feedforward inhibition allows the robust formation of spatio-temporal response selectivity, including direction selectivity, in feedforward models of the developing cortex.   J. Neurophys. 111: doi:10.1152/jn.00891.2013.

    Y. Garkun and   A. Maffei  (2014) The time of eye opening regulates cannabinoid-dependent plasticity in rodent visual cortex.   Front. Cell. Neurosci. 8:46. doi:10.3389/fncel.2014.00046

    L. Wang and   A. Maffei  (2014) Inhibition dictates the sign of plasticity at excitatory synapses.   J. Neurosci. 34: 1083-93

    PubMed Link

  • Laboratory Personnel

    Melissa Haley (postdoc)

    Hillary Schiff (postdoc)

    Alexandra Matthews (postdoc)

    Priscilla Yevoo (PhD student)

    Maria Isaac (PhD student)

    Aylar Berenji-Kalkhoran (PhD student)

    Ashley Mazzocchi (undergraduate)

    Patrick Serrentino (undergraduate)