Pico Caroni

Pico Caroni

Plasticity of neuronal connections

We investigate regulatory mechanisms that control the formation, maintenance and turnover of synaptic connections (structural plasticity), and how this plasticity relates to learning and behavior. We are particularly interested in mechanisms determining the plasticity of defined neuronal circuits, as they may inform us about principles of learning, adaptation, and resilience to disease in the nervous system.

Applying this approach to the hippocampus, a brain structure with a critical role in learning and memory, we investigate how learning and experience specifically influence circuit structure, and how that structure in turn impacts on behavior. We are taking a comprehensive approach to hippocampal and cerebellar circuits, with studies ranging from the specification and assembly of defined microcircuits during development, to the roles of these microcircuits in adult plasticity.

In a second line of research, we investigate mechanisms of disease in neurodegeneration, focusing on mouse models of motoneuron disease. As well as mouse genetics, mouse behavior, neuroanatomy, single cell genomics and live imaging, we use transgenic mice expressing fluorescent chimeric proteins in single neurons to visualize neurons and subcellular components in situ.

Karunakaran S*, Chowdhury A*, Donato F, Quairiaux C, Michel CM, Caroni P (2016) PV plasticity sustained through D1/5 dopamine signaling required for long-term memory consolidation

Nat Neurosci 19:454-464
* joint first author

Donato F, Chowdhury A, Lahr M, Caroni P (2015) Early- and late-born parvalbumin basket cell subpopulations exhibiting distinct regulation and roles in learning.

Neuron 85:770-778

Donato F, Rompani SB, Caroni P (2013) Parvalbumin-expressing basket-cell network plasticity induced by experience regulates adult learning

Nature, 504:272-276.

Saxena S*, Roselli F*, Singh K, Leptien K, Julien J-P, Gros-Louis F, Caroni P. (2013) Neuroprotection through excitability and mTor required in ALS motoneurons to delay disease and extend survival

Neuron, 80:80-96

Ruediger S, Spirig D, Donato F, Caroni P (2012) Goal-oriented searching mediated by ventral hippocampus early in trial-and-error learning

Nat Neurosci. 15:1563-71

Caroni P, Donato F, Muller D (2012) Structural plasticity upon learning: regulation and functions

Nat Rev Neurosci 13:478-90

Ruediger S, Vittori C, Bednarek E, Genoud C, Strata P, Sacchetti B, Caroni P (2011) Learning-related feedforward inhibitory connectivity growth required for memory precision

Nature, 473, 514-518

Bednarek E, and Caroni P (2011) ß-Adducin is required for stable assembly of new synapses and improved memory upon environmental enrichment

Neuron 69:1132-46

Deguchi Y, Donato F, Galimberti I, Cabuy E, Caroni P (2011) Temporally matched subpopulations of selectively interconnected principal neurons in the hippocampus

Nature Neurosci. 14:495-504

Saxena S, Caroni P (2011) Selective neuronal vulnerability in neurodegenerative diseases: from stressor thresholds to degeneration

Neuron, 71:35-48.

Galimberti I, Bednarek E, Caroni P. (2010) EphA4 signaling in juveniles establishes topographic specificity of structural plasticity in the hippocampus

Neuron 65:627-42

Gogolla N, Caroni P, Lüthi A, Herry C (2009) Perineuronal nets protect fear memories from erasure

Science 325:1258-1261

Gogolla N, Galimberti I, Deguchi Y, Caroni P (2009) Wnt signaling mediates experience-related regulation of synapse numbers and mossy fiber connectivities in the adult hippocampus

Neuron 62:510-525

Saxena S, Cabuy E, Caroni P (2009) A role for motoneuron subtype-selective ER stress in disease manifestations of FALS mice

Nature Neurosci 12:627-636

De Paola V, Holtmaat A, Knott G, Song S, Wilbrecht L, Caroni P, Svoboda K (2006) Cell type-specific structural plasticity of axonal branches and boutons in the adult neocortex

Neuron 49:861-875

Galimberti I, Gogolla N, Alberi S, Santos AF, Muller D, Caroni P (2006) Long-term rearrangements of hippocampal mossy fiber connectivity in the adult regulated by experience

Neuron 50:749-763

Pun S, Santos AF, Saxena S, Lefler S, Caroni P (2006) CNTF-sensitive selective vulnerability and pruning of phasic motoneuron axons in motoneuron disease

Nature Neurosci 3:408-419

PhD students

Parameswaran Valiathan (2017-2023)
Komal Bhandari (2013-2021)
Lisa Kaefer (2015-2021)
Olga Matveeva (2014-2020)
Matteo Tripodi (2014-2019)
Melissa Serrano (2012-2019)
Lara Nellissen (2016-2018)
Ananya Chowdhury (2012-2018)
Arghya Mukherjee (2011-2018)
Maria Lahr (2011-2017)
Roberta Russo (2015-2016)
Annapoorani Udhayachandran (2010-2016)
Fernando Carvalho (2011-2016)
Manxia Zhao (2010-2014)
Baran Koc (2012-2013)
Flavio Donato (2007-2013)
Michael Abanto (2006-2012)
Swananda Marathe (2010-2011)
Sarah Ruediger (2005-2011)
Dominique Spirig (2006-2011)
Pu Wu (2007-2011)
Jelena Buetler (2009-2010)
Martina Mitterhuber (2008-2010)
Yuichi Deguchi (2005-2010)
Ioannis Kramvis (2008-2010)
Claudia Vittori (2006-2009)
Ivan Galimberti (2003-2008)
Nadine Gogolla (2002-2007)
Stefan Wacha (2000-2006)
Alexandre Ferrao Santos (1999-2006)
Tamara Golub (2000-2005)
Anirban Sadhu (2001-2005)
Sharon Lefler (2004-2005)
Vincenzo De Paola (1998-2003)
Martin Hund (1997-2001)
Dunja Michaela Frey (1995-2001)
Maria Maddalena Lino (1999-2001)
Thorsten Laux (1995-2000)
Anja Baumeister (1994-1998)
Hartwig Volkmar Hanser (1993-1997)
Silvia Arber (1991-1996)
Andreas Wiederkehr (1992-1996)
Ludwig Aigner-Spierer (1991-1995)
Franco Widmer (1989-1993)
Valeria Koch (1989-1992)

Postdoctoral fellows

Martina Parrini (2018-2023)
Parameswaran Valiathan (2023)
Phatcharee Chukaew (2020-2023)
Sergio Valbuena (2020-2023)
Komal Bhandari (2021-2023)
Maria Spolidoro (2015-2022)
Lisa Kaefer (2021-2022)
Olga Matveeva (2020-2022)
Melissa Serrano (2019-2022)
Sebastian Kruettner (2013-2021)
Maria Carmela Padula (2018-2020)
Maria Lahr (2017-2019)
Arghya Mukherjee (2018-2019)
Giulia Poggi (2016-2018)
Agne Kazlauskaite (2016-2018)
Smitha Karunakaran (2010-2015)
Noelia Madronal (2013-2015)
Francesco Roselli (2010-2014)
Flavio Donato (2013)
Ewa Bednarek (2006-2010)
Smita Saxena (2004-2010)
Claudia Vittori (2009)
Ivan Galimberti (2008)
Yong-Xin Yu (2006-2007)
Alexandre Ferrao Santos (2006)
Tamara Brown (2005-2006)
San Pun (1998-2004)
Katri Pajusola (1998-2000)
Athanassios Alevizopoulos (1998-1999)
Olga Tarabal (1997-1998)
Michael Willem (1997-1998)

Technical/Research associates

Kerstin Leptien (2007-2019)
Lan Xu (1996-2014)
Corinna Schneider (1989-2006)


Guillaume Tricot (2021)
Guillaume Tricot (2020)
Vittoria Peretti (2019)
Louis Hilfiger (2017)
Paula Zganiacz (2014)
Melanie Arrivet (2013)
Ana Carolina Bottura de Barros (2012-2013)
Melissa Serrano (2011-2012)
Sharon Lefler (2003-2004)
Igor Dodevski (2001)
Daniel Gerlich (1997-1998)
Mascha Bethke (1995-1996)
Daniel Gutmans (1995-1996)
Michele Adam (1993-1994)
Virginie Terrasson (1994)
Mascha Bethke (1992-1993)
Marius Becker (1991-1992)
Andreas Jenny (1990-1991)
Adrian Rothenfluh (1990-1991)

Visiting scientists

Komal Bhandari (2023)
Melissa Serrano (2022)
Maria Lahr (2020-2021)
Maria Carmela Padula (2017-2018)
Alicja Puscian (2015)
Ewa Bednarek (2010-2011)
Francois Gros-Louis (2010)


PhD, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich
BSc, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich

Positions held

Professor of Neurobiology, University of Basel
Senior Group Leader, Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel
Junior Group Leader, Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel
Oberassistent, Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich, Zurich
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, San Francisco, USA


Théodore-Ott Prize
Chair, Conferences Committee FENS
Chair, Program Committee FENS Forum 2010
Chair, Meetings and Courses Committee, EMBO
Member, EMBO
Pfizer Prize for Basic Research in Cardiology
Privatdozent, University of Basel, Basel
START (Swiss Talents for Academic Research and Teaching) Fellowship, Swiss National Science Foundation
ETH Dissertation Medal for Excellence
ETH Graduation Medal for Excellence