Principal Investigators from UCI

Christine Gall, PhD

Professor and Chair, Anatomy & Neurobiology; Professor, Neurobiology & Behavior

Dr. Gall has conducted foundational studies on the localization and regulation of neurotrophic factors in the brain and continues to investigate the role of such factors in synaptic plasticity. Her current work includes analyses of the cooperative interactions between trophic and modulatory receptors (including cannabinoid receptors) in regulating plasticity.


Gary Lynch, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior and Anatomy & Neurobiology

Dr. Lynch has made fundamental contributions to the description of anatomical and physiological plasticity in the developing, mature and aging brain. Among them, he introduced the now widely accepted ‘cytoskeletal hypothesis’ for activity-driven modification of synapses and related memory encoding.


Stephen Mahler, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurobiology & Behavior

Dr. Mahler helped pioneer the use of DREADDs to manipulate neural circuits during complex addiction-related behaviors, described new roles for the hypothalamic peptide orexin in motivated behavior, and identified a novel endocannabinoid “hedonic hotspot” in the nucleus accumbens.


Daniele Piomelli, PhD

Director, UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis
Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences
Professor, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology

My research is focused on understanding how endocannabinoid substances and other lipid-derived signaling molecules affect the function of the brain and other organs. More specifically, in the last few decades, we have investigated the biochemical pathways involved in the formation and deactivation of the endocannabinoid neurotransmitters, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), and has uncovered important physiological roles played by these molecules. We also studied another class of lipid messengers, the fatty-acid ethanolamides (FAEs) and ceramide, and identified the mechanism of action of these molecules. We have developed inhibitors of their degradation, whose potential therapeutic uses are currently under investigation. Moving forward, we plan to study the potential impacts of cannabinoids during lifespan, in particular regarding the persistent brain alteration caused by early-life exposure as well as its potential benefits for selected human disorders.


Marcelo A. Wood, PhD

Professor and Chair, Dept. of Neurobiology & Behavior, School of Biological Sciences

My research is focused on understanding the epigenetic mechanisms that regulate gene expression required for long-lasting changes in behavior as related to drug-seeking and drug-associated memory processes. Current collaborative studies involve examination of how cannabis affects epigenetic mechanisms to induce persistent changes in neuronal function and ultimately behavior.