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).
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.
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
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.