John A. Dani, Ph.D.

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David J. Mahoney Professor of Neurological Sciences
Department: Neuroscience
Graduate Group Affiliations

Contact information
415 Curie Blvd
211 Clinical Research Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: 215-898-8498
B.A. (Atmosheric and Oceanic Science)
University of Michigan, 1975.
Ph.D. (Physiology)
University of Minnesota, 1980.
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Description of Research Expertise

John A. Dani, PhD, is the new chair of the Department of Neuroscience in the Perelman School of Medicine and the Director of the Mahoney Institute for Neurosciences (MINS) at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Dani has a wide breath of research interests, but he is best known for his research into addiction. For example, his work showed that nicotine commandeers normal neural mechanisms of learning and memory during the addiction to tobacco.

Dr. Dani received his Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Minnesota. After postdoctoral training, he became a Research Associate Scientist in the Section of Molecular Neurobiology at Yale University. During this time, Dr. Dani applied himself to basic biophysics and theoretical research, describing mechanisms that underlie the electrical communication within the brain. Later he accepted a position at Baylor College of Medicine, where he became Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. During this period, Dr. Dani was a Visiting Scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Wiersma Visiting Professor at the California Institute of Technology. These opportunities enabled him to expand his cellular biophysics research to include in vivo recordings with powerful invasive techniques that probed the mechanisms underlying motivations and decision-making while animals performed experimentally designed behavioral tasks. While at Baylor, Dr. Dani served in many administrative roles, including the chair of the Neuroscience Appointments, Promotion, and Tenure Committee and a member of the graduate program Executive Committee in Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics. These roles culminated in Dr. Dani becoming Director of the Center on Addiction, Learning, and Memory.

At Penn Dr. Dani plans his research efforts based on the hypothesis that fundamental mechanisms underlie the communication and adaptability of the nervous system. Those same cellular mechanisms that normally serve the brain are misdirected and damaged during disease and are commandeered and altered by the addiction process. Therefore, fundamental mechanisms underlying neuronal functions offer points of entry for pharmacological, physiological, and genetic methods aimed at relieving or preventing abnormal behaviors of mental disease and drug addiction. From this research prospective, his laboratory has made contributions toward our understanding and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, mood disorders, and addiction. His studies will continue to examine the signaling and dysfunction of neurotransmitter systems, which are the chemical signalers of the brain. For example, his studies have shown that addictive drugs induce synaptic changes in the brain that are comparable to those caused during learning, and his lab showed that antidepressant therapies alter the signaling relationships between mood-regulating neurotransmitter systems. Guided by the same fundamental research principles, Dr. Dani’s lab also has contributed to the understanding of memory functions during exposure to drugs and stress or during degenerative disease, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s dementia. In his new leadership role, Dr. Dani aims to enhance the already high level of achievement in the neurosciences by fostering board, interdisciplinary teamwork. Within the Dept. of Neuroscience and MINS, quality and excellence will serve as the basis for student as well as faculty recruitment within a cooperative and supportive environment.

Research techniques: systems neurophysiology, in vivo recording, electrophysiology, behavioral tasks, and brain slices

Key words: addiction, systems neuroscience, behavior, cholinergic, and dopaminergic

Selected Publications

Doyon WM, Dong Y, Ostroumov A, Thomas AM, Zhang TA, Dani JA: Nicotine Decreases Ethanol-Induced Dopamine Signaling and Increases Self-Administration via Stress Hormones. Neuron July 2013.

Doyon William M, Thomas Alyse M, Ostroumov Alexey, Dong Yu, Dani John A: Potential Substrates for Nicotine and Alcohol Interactions: a Focus on the Mesocorticolimbic Dopamine System. Biochemical pharmacology Jul 2013.

Li Wei, Doyon William M, Dani John A: Quantitative unit classification of ventral tegmental area neurons in vivo. Journal of Neurophysiology 107(10): 2808-20, May 2012.

Zhang Lifen, Dong Yu, Doyon William M, Dani John A: Withdrawal from chronic nicotine exposure alters dopamine signaling dynamics in the nucleus accumbens. Biological Psychiatry 71(3): 184-91, Feb 2012.

Zhang Lifen, Le Weidong, Xie Wenjie, Dani John A: Age-related changes in dopamine signaling in Nurr1 deficient mice as a model of Parkinson's disease. Neurobiology of Aging 33(5): 1001.e7-16, May 2012.

De Biasi Mariella, Dani John A: Reward, addiction, withdrawal to nicotine. Annual Review of Neuroscience 34: 105-30, 2011.

Zhang Tao A, Tang Jianrong, Pidoplichko Volodymyr I, Dani John A: Addictive nicotine alters local circuit inhibition during the induction of in vivo hippocampal synaptic potentiation. The Journal of Neuroscience 30(18): 6443-53, May 2010.

Zhang Tianxiang, Zhang Lifen, Liang Yong, Siapas Athanassios G, Zhou Fu-Ming, Dani John A: Dopamine signaling differences in the nucleus accumbens and dorsal striatum exploited by nicotine. The Journal of Neuroscience 29(13): 4035-43, Apr 2009.

Tang Jianrong, Dani John A: Dopamine enables in vivo synaptic plasticity associated with the addictive drug nicotine. Neuron 63(5): 673-82, Sep 2009.

Dani John A, Montague P Read: Disrupting addiction through the loss of drug-associated internal states. Nature neuroscience 10(4): 403-4, Apr 2007.

Pidoplichko Volodymyr I, Dani John A: Acid-sensitive ionic channels in midbrain dopamine neurons are sensitive to ammonium, which may contribute to hyperammonemia damage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103(30): 11376-80, Jul 2006.

Ge Shaoyu, Dani John A: Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors at glutamate synapses facilitate long-term depression or potentiation. The Journal of Neuroscience 25(26): 6084-91, Jun 2005.

Dani John A, Harris R Adron: Nicotine addiction and comorbidity with alcohol abuse and mental illness. Nature Neuroscience 8(11): 1465-70, Nov 2005.

Zhou Fu-Ming, Liang Yong, Salas Ramiro, Zhang Lifen, De Biasi Mariella, Dani John A: Corelease of dopamine and serotonin from striatal dopamine terminals. Neuron 46(1): 65-74, Apr 2005.

De Biasi Mariella, Dani John A: Stress hormone enhances synaptic NMDA response on dopamine neurons. Neuron 39(3): 387-8, Jul 2003.

Zhou F M, Liang Y, Dani J A: Endogenous nicotinic cholinergic activity regulates dopamine release in the striatum. Nature Neuroscience 4(12): 1224-9, Dec 2001.

Dani J A, Ji D, Zhou F M: Synaptic plasticity and nicotine addiction. Neuron 31(3): 349-52, Aug 2001.

Ji D, Lape R, Dani J A: Timing and location of nicotinic activity enhances or depresses hippocampal synaptic plasticity. Neuron 31(1): 131-41, Jul 2001.

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Last updated: 10/29/2015
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