Olivier Berton, PhD

faculty photo
Department: Psychiatry
Graduate Group Affiliations

Contact information
125 s 31st street , TRL building, room 2218
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3403
Office: 215-573-6442
Fax: 215-573-2041
PhD (Neuroscience)
U Bordeaux II, Victor Segalen, France, 1998.
Permanent link

Description of Research Expertise


Psychosocial experiences impact on physiology, health and well-being. Nurturing social interactions or exposure to interpersonal violence and disruption of social bonds, during infancy or adulthood, interact with genetic background to influence risk and resilience for affective disorders.

Our lab uses neurobiological and behavioral approaches in the mouse to examine how aversive socioaffective experiences (i.e. aggression, social isolation, group instability) or positive social experiences (Environmental enrichment , social bonding) affect brain development and function at the molecular, cellular and systems level. Our main projects focus on experience-dependent plasticity of monoamine systems, phylogenetically ancient and highly conserved neurotransmitters implicated in regulating multiple aspects of social and affective behaviors


- What are the circuits and intracellular signaling mechanisms by which the brain encodes the affective value of social stimuli and update their valence based on experience ?

-How does social experience affect circuits structure and function?

- What differentiates individuals that are resilient from those that are vulnerable to psychosocial stress ?

- Can affective resilience be boosted by specific types of social experiences? What are underlying neurobiological mechanisms?

- By what mechanisms do antidepressants and other types of interventions such as DBS influence socioaffective responses and stress resilience ?


Inducible and Cell Targeted Mutations in Mice
Viral-Mediated Gene Transfer
Animal Behavior, social defeat, emotional reactvity
Analysis of intracellular signaling and molecular adaptations
Measure of functional and structural plasticity (Morphometry, Whole Cell electrophysiology in collaboration with Sheryl Beck @ CHOP)
Optogenetics and Pharmacogenetics


Project 1: Reversible acetylation of cytoplasmic proteins and regulation of socioaffective processes and resilience (Keywords: HDAC6, HSP90, tubulin , acetylation, Chaperone complex, GR, resilience, Social avoidance)

Project 2: Top-Down Control of Serotonergic circuits in socioaffective processes and resilience (Keywords: Prefrontal Cortex, Raphe, Optogenetics, Whole cell recordings, Socioaffective responses, resilience )


Social Defeat, Stress Appraisal and Coping, Dominance subordination, Depression, PTSD , social Phobia, Antidepressants, Neuroplasticity, Intracellular Mechansisms.

Selected Publications

Berton Olivier, Hahn Chang-Gyu, Thase Michael E: Are we getting closer to valid translational models for major depression? Science 338(6103): 75-9, Oct 2012.

Veerakumar Avin, Challis Collin, Gupta Preetika, Da Jennifer, Upadhyay Aseem, Beck Sheryl G, Berton Olivier: Antidepressant-like Effects of Cortical Deep Brain Stimulation Coincide with Pro-neuroplastic Adaptations of Serotonin Systems. Biological psychiatry Dec 2013.

Jochems Jeanine, Boulden Janette, Lee Bridgin G, Blendy Julie A, Jarpe Matthew, Mazitschek Ralph, Van Duzer John H, Jones Simon, Berton Olivier: Antidepressant-like properties of novel HDAC6-selective inhibitors with improved brain bioavailability. Neuropsychopharmacology 39(2): 389-400, Jan 2014.

Challis Collin, Boulden Janette, Veerakumar Avin, Espallergues Julie, Vassoler Fair M, Pierce R Christopher, Beck Sheryl G, Berton Olivier: Raphe GABAergic neurons mediate the acquisition of avoidance after social defeat. The Journal of neuroscience 33(35): 13978-88, 13988a, Aug 2013.

Espallergues J, Teegarden SL, Veerakumar A, Boulden J, Challis C, Jochems J, Chan M, Petersen T, Deneris E, Matthias P, Hahn CG, Lucki I, Beck SG, Berton O.: HDAC6 regulates glucocorticoid receptor signaling in serotonin pathways with critical impact on stress resilience. Journal of Neuroscience 28;32(13): 4400-16. March 2012

Berton O1, Guigoni C, Li Q, Bioulac BH, Aubert I, Gross CE, Dileone RJ, Nestler EJ, Bezard E. Biol Psychiatry. Sep 15;66(6):554-61. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.04.005. Epub 2009 May 28.: Striatal overexpression of DeltaJunD resets L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia in a primate model of Parkinson disease. Biological Psychiatry 15;66(6):: 15;66(6):554-61. Sep 2009.

Berton Olivier, McClung Colleen A, Dileone Ralph J, Krishnan Vaishnav, Renthal William, Russo Scott J, Graham Danielle, Tsankova Nadia M, Bolanos Carlos A, Rios Maribel, Monteggia Lisa M, Self David W, Nestler Eric J: Essential role of BDNF in the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in social defeat stress. Science 311(5762): 864-8, Feb 2006.

Golden SA, Covington HE 3rd, Berton O, Russo SJ: A standardized protocol for repeated social defeat stress in mice. Nature Protocols Jul 21;6(8)(6(8)): 1183-91, July 2011.

Berton Olivier, Nestler Eric J: New approaches to antidepressant drug discovery: beyond monoamines. Nature reviews. Neuroscience 7(2): 137-51, Feb 2006.

Tsankova Nadia M, Berton Olivier, Renthal William, Kumar Arvind, Neve Rachel L, Nestler Eric J: Sustained hippocampal chromatin regulation in a mouse model of depression and antidepressant action. Nature neuroscience 9(4): 519-25, Apr 2006.

Krishnan Vaishnav, Han Ming-Hu, Graham Danielle L, Berton Olivier, Renthal William, Russo Scott J, Laplant Quincey, Graham Ami, Lutter Michael, Lagace Diane C, Ghose Subroto, Reister Robin, Tannous Paul, Green Thomas A, Neve Rachael L, Chakravarty Sumana, Kumar Arvind, Eisch Amelia J, Self David W, Lee Francis S, Tamminga Carol A, Cooper Donald C, Gershenfeld Howard K, Nestler Eric J: Molecular adaptations underlying susceptibility and resistance to social defeat in brain reward regions. Cell 131(2): 391-404, Oct 2007.

Berton Olivier, Covington Herbert E, Ebner Karl, Tsankova Nadia M, Carle Tiffany L, Ulery Paula, Bhonsle Akshay, Barrot Michel, Krishnan Vaishnav, Singewald Georg M, Singewald Nicolas, Birnbaum Shari, Neve Rachael L, Nestler Eric J: Induction of deltaFosB in the periaqueductal gray by stress promotes active coping responses. Neuron 55(2): 289-300, Jul 2007.

Ryckmans Thomas, Balançon Laurent, Berton Olivier, Genicot Christophe, Lamberty Yves, Lallemand Benedicte, Pasau Patrick, Pirlot Nathalie, Quéré Luc, Talaga Patrice: First dual NK(1) antagonists-serotonin reuptake inhibitors: synthesis and SAR of a new class of potential antidepressants. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry letters 12(2): 261-4, Jan 2002.

Berton O, Ramos A, Chaouloff F, Mormde P: Behavioral reactivity to social and nonsocial stimulations: a multivariate analysis of six inbred rat strains. Behavior genetics 27(2): 155-66, Mar 1997.

back to top
Last updated: 03/26/2014
The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania