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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Photo of Dr. Mario Penzo  Chief of the 'Unit on the Neurobiology of Affective Memory' at NIMH.

Mario Penzo, Ph.D.

Chief
Unit on the Neurobiology of Affective Memory

Biography

Dr. Penzo obtained his Ph.D. at Albert Einstein College of Medicine with support from an NRSA training grant. Under the mentorship of Dr. Jose Luis Peña he completed his dissertation on the endocannabinoid-mediated modulation of synaptic transmission in the avian auditory midbrain. Next, he became a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Bo Li at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where he studied the synaptic mechanisms controlling fear memory and received the Harvey L. Karp Discovery Award. Dr. Penzo joined the National Institute of Mental Health in the Fall of 2015.

Research Interests

Dr. Penzo’s lab is currently investigating the neuronal mechanisms underlying the formation and regulation of affective memories. Because increased stress sensitivity is a known risk factor for mood disorders, his group is interested in deciphering the neuronal circuits controlling susceptibility to stress. To achieve this they are currently employing a multidisciplinary approach, which includes behavioral assays, electrophysiological, imaging, neuroanatomical and optogenetics techniques.

Selected Publications

Ma J, du Hoffmann J, Kindel M, Beas BS, Chudasama Y, Penzo MA (2021). Divergent projections of the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus mediate the selection of passive and active defensive behaviors. Nat Neurosci 24, 1429-1440. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-021-00912-7. [Pubmed Link]

Penzo MA, Gao C (2021). The paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus: an integrative node underlying homeostatic behavior. Trends Neurosci 44, 538-549. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tins.2021.03.001. [Pubmed Link]

Sofia Beas B, Gu X, Leng Y, Koita O, Rodriguez-Gonzalez S, Kindel M, Matikainen-Ankney BA, Larsen RS, Kravitz AV, Hoon MA, Penzo MA (2020). A ventrolateral medulla-midline thalamic circuit for hypoglycemic feeding. Nat Commun 11, 6218. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19980-7. [Pubmed Link]

Gao C, Leng Y, Ma J, Rooke V, Rodriguez-Gonzalez S, Ramakrishnan C, Deisseroth K, Penzo MA (2020). Two genetically, anatomically and functionally distinct cell types segregate across anteroposterior axis of paraventricular thalamus. Nat Neurosci 23, 217-228. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-019-0572-3. [Pubmed Link]

Beas BS, Wright BJ, Skirzewski M, Leng Y, Hyun JH, Koita O, Ringelberg N, Kwon HB, Buonanno A, Penzo MA (2018). The locus coeruleus drives disinhibition in the midline thalamus via a dopaminergic mechanism. Nat Neurosci 21, 963-973. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-018-0167-4. [Pubmed Link]


Building 35A, Room 2E-621, MSC 3748
BETHESDA, MD 20892
Phone: +1 301 451 7296

mario.penzo@nih.gov