Camilla Bellone

Camilla Bellone


Camilla Bellone is Associate Professor in the Department of Basic Neuroscience and Coordinator of the Synapsy Centre at the UNIGE. She brings pharmacological and neurophysiological perspectives on the brain functions involved in mental disorders. Her research focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms of social behaviour, from molecules to the neural networks in which they evolve.

Camilla is a social person who likes to be surrounded by others. This genuine need for human interaction has always made her wonder: "Why do people behave differently socially?” As a neuroscientist, she is now looking for answers in the brain. And since sociability is affected in several mental disorders, including autism, she became interested in mental health issues and in the Synapsy Centre.



Identifying the neural circuits involved in social motivation

Camilla Bellone's laboratory contributes to studying the role of dopaminergic neurons of the reward circuit in social interactions. Using tools derived from optogenetics, chemogenetics and electrophysiology, but also through behavioural analyses in mice, her laboratory has demonstrated that these neurons are mainly involved in social motivation. These discoveries call for the accurate identification of the circuits involved to understand what makes people different from one another because human society needs these differences.

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Autism spectrum disorders and the reward system

Camilla Bellone and her collaborators are investigating the role played by the reward system in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). They aim to identify the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie them. Her laboratory has already demonstrated that two genes linked to ASD (shank3 and neuroligin3) in mice are involved in habituation to an unfamiliar conspecific and that mutations in a specific region of shank3 alter sociability, a behavioural trait typical of autism. Furthermore, there is recent evidence of direct causality between inflammation and the development of behavioural symptoms involved in autism. As other mental disorders are associated with a deficit in social interaction, Camilla now plans to determine whether the same neurobiological pathways are involved in depression and schizophrenia.