Sandi Lab – Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics

We investigate the impact and mechanisms whereby stress and personality affect brain function and behavior, with a focus on motivation and the social domain.


Specifically, we investigate:

i) The neurobiological mechanisms involved in motivated behavior, and their modulation by stress and anxiety. We focus on the mesolimbic system and the role of mitochondrial function in effort-based motivated behavior and social hierarchy formation and maintenance.

ii) The mechanisms whereby early life stress enhances risk to develop psychopathologies, with a main focus on the emergence of sociability deficits and pathological aggression. We investigate the role of glucocorticoids in determining different neurodevelopmental trajectories following exposure to early life adversity. We also ascertaining the fat-to-brain pathways in the mediation of behavioral programming by early life stress.

Experimental approaches in the lab include a combination of behavioral, neuroimaging, electrophysiological, neurochemical, pharmacological, metabolic, genetic and optogenetic methods. We perform studies in rodents and translational work in humans using virtual reality, behavioral economics, experimental psychology (eye-tracking, computer-based tests) and neuroimaging (EEG, fMRI, MRI, 1H-MRS) approaches.

Representative recent publications

Strasser A et al., 2020

Glutamine-to-glutamate ratio in the nucleus accumbens predicts effort-based motivated performance in humans. Strasser A, Luksys G, Xin L, Pessiglione M, Gruetter R, Sandi C. (2020)

Cherix A et al., 2020

Metabolic signature in nucleus accumbens for anti-depressant-like effects of acetyl-L-carnitine. Cherix A, Larrieu T, Grosse J, Rodrigues J, McEwen B, Nasca C, Gruetter R, Sandi C. (2020)

van der Kooij MA et al., 2018

Diazepam actions in the VTA enhance social dominance and mitochondrial function in the nucleus accumbens by activation of dopamine D1 receptors. van der Kooij MA, Hollis F, Lozano L, Zalachoras I, Abad S, Zanoletti O, Grosse J, Guillot de Suduiraut I, Canto C, Sandi C. (2018)


Head of Laboratory: Prof. Carmen Sandi
Office : SV 2810
Phone : 41 21 693 9534

Administration: Barbara Goumaz
Office: SV 2805
Phone: 41 21 693 17 62

Mailing Address

SV 2805 (Bâtiment SV)
Station 19
CH-1015 Lausanne

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