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Ricardo Neto Silva

Post Doc
020 3549 5514 (t)

Research Interests:

Addiction disorders have a high prevalence in modern society, and nicotine addiction, in particular, remains a major health problem worldwide. Notwithstanding considerable research efforts, our knowledge about the neuronal mechanisms underlying nicotine addiction remains rather unsatisfactory. Recently, zebrafish has attracted substantial attention as a powerful model system to study addiction behaviors. It is our plan to capitalize on the advantageous features offered by this model system to further our understanding of the neural basis underlying nicotine addiction.

Work performed in mammals has implicated the neuronal pathway comprising the habenula and associated circuits in nicotine addiction. Based on the conservation established for the habenular circuitry between mammals and zebrafish, we posit that this brain structure plays an instrumental role in mediating nicotine addiction in fish. Hence, focusing on the habenula and associated circuitry, we are undertaking a multidisciplinary research programme aimed at exposing and integrating the different biological scales relevant for addiction: genes, circuits and behavior.

Importantly, - and in light of the fact that compromised brain asymmetries have been linked to several neuropathologies in humans-, we will take advantage of the fact that in zebrafish the paired habenular nuclei display anatomic and molecular asymmetries to also explore how brain asymmetries may impact upon addiction disorders.

Together, these studies should comprehensively advance our knowledge about the neuronal correlates underlying addiction.


2011-Present: Postdoctoral researcher, Steve Wilson Group, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University College London, U. K. Supervisor: Prof. Steve Wilson. Project: “Habenular circuitry and the molecular and cellular basis for nicotine addiction in zebrafish”

2010-2011: Postdoctoral researcher, Innate Behavior Laboratory, Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme, Lisbon, Portugal. Supervisor: Dr. Maria Luisa Vasconcelos. Project: “Functional Architecture of the Neural Circuitry Controlling Female Reproductive Behavior in Drosophila melanogaster”

2005-2010: Visiting PhD student (Gulbenkian PhD Programme in Biomedicine), Columbia University-Department of Genetics and Development, NY, USA. Supervisor: Dr. Laura Johnston. Thesis Project: “Mutual dependence between Myc and the Hippo tumor suppressor pathway in growth regulation and homeostasis”

2004-2005: Gulbenkian PhD Programme in Biomedicine, graduate courses and laboratory rotation.

2003-2004: Research Fellowship, Structural Molecular Biology Group, Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology, Porto, Portugal. Supervisor: Prof. Ana Margarida Damas. Projects: “The three-dimensional structure of the extracellular domain of the Receptor for Advanced Glycation End products (RAGE)” and “Transthyretin (TTR) amyloidosis: Determination of the three-dimensional structure of clinically important TTR mutants.”

03/2002-09/2002: Final degree project in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics of Stockholm University. Supervisors: Dr. Stefan Nobel and Prof. Stefan Nordlund. Project: “The interplay between Bcl-2 subcellular localization and its function as an anti-apoptotic protein.”

1998-2002: Undergraduate studies in Biochemistry, Faculty of Sciences, Porto University.

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