Athina Markou, Ph.D. 

Professor of Psychiatry
Vice-Chair for Research (Basic Science)


Contact Information

T: (858) 534-1572
F: (858) 534-9917


Athina Markou, Ph.D. is a Professor and Vice-Chair for Research at the Department of Psychiatry UCSD, and Adjunct Professor at the Molecular and Integrative Neurosciences Department of The Scripps Research Institute. She has published more than 175 journal articles and 45 book chapters, and has received the Efron Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. She is Principal Investigator of several NIH grants, and Director of NIH consortia/grants on the discovery of novel treatments for depression and nicotine dependence. Her research focuses on the investigation of the neurobiology of reward, motivational and cognitive deficits, as they relate to several neuropsychiatric disorders, using rodent models and translational experimental approaches. Her work on the discovery of new pharmacotherapeutics for the treatment of drug addiction and mood disorders focuses on metabotropic glutamate and GABA receptors. She has mentored more than 45 junior faculty, postdoctoral and predoctoral fellows, and is on the editorial board of more than 10 scientific journals.

Research Interests

Research Focus

Our work focuses on reward and motivational processes in three psychiatric disorders: nicotine dependence, depression and schizophrenia. Dependence on nicotine is perpetuated by both the rewarding effects of acute nicotine and avoidance of negative affective aspects of nicotine withdrawal. We study the neurobiology of these phenomena, using rodent models, with emphasis on the inhibitory GABAergic and the excitatory glutamatergic neurotransmitter systems. We are also exploring the neurobiological similarities of drug- and non-drug-induced depressions, and the negative depression-like symptoms of schizophrenia. Finally, we initiated work on stress-induced depression-like behaviors and the cognitive aspects of schizophrenia.


  • Markou, A., Kosten, T.R. and Koob, G.F. (1998) Neurobiological similarities in depression and drug dependence: A self-medication hypothesis, Neuropsychopharmacology, 18(3), 135-174.
  • Markou, A. (2007) Metabotropic glutamate receptor antagonists: Novel therapeutics for nicotine dependence and depression? Biological Psychiatry, 61, 17-22.
  • Liechti, M.E., Lhuillier, L., Kaupmann, K. and Markou, A. (2007) Metabotropic glutamate 2/3 receptors in the ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens shell are involved in behaviors relating to nicotine dependence. Journal of Neuroscience. 27(34), 9077-9085.
  • Markou, A., Salamone, J.D., Bussey, T.J., Mar, A.C., Brunner, D., Gilmour, G. and Balsam, P. (2013) Measuring reinforcement learning and motivation constructs in experimental animals: relevance to the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 37, 2149-2165. PMCID: PMC3849135.
  • Der-Avakian, A., D’Souza, M.S., Pizzagalli, D.A. and Markou, A. (2014) Assessment of reward responsiveness in the response bias probabilistic reward task in rats: implications for cross-species translational research. Translational Psychiatry. In press. PMCID: PMC3756297.