Dr. Maria Morena
Research. The overarching aim of my research is to investigate the role of the endocannabinoid system in the modulation of memory processes and its interaction with stress, to elucidate mechanisms of psychiatric diseases, including PTSD and anxiety disorders. In the Hill lab, I am looking at the influence of stress on mechanisms of contextual and cued fear memory extinction and recall and its interaction with the endocannabinoid system within the hippocampus and the amygdala, by using in vivo electrophysiology, biochemical and behavioral pharmacology techniques.
Hobbies. I like to travel, going shopping, reading books and having good food.
Favourite paper. My favourite paper is “Selective Erasure of a Fear Memory” by Han et al. 2009 (Science 323:1492-6). This is a ground breaking paper showing that deleting a very small subset of neurons recruited into a fear memory trace in the lateral amygdala results in the erasure of that memory.
Morena M., Aukema R.J., Leitl K.D., Rashid A.J., Vecchiarelli H.A., Josselyn S.A., Hill M.N. Upregulation of anandamide hydrolysis in the basolateral complex of amygdala reduces fear memory expression and indices of stress and anxiety. J Neurosci 2019; 39:1275–1292.
Morena M., Berardi A., Colucci P., Palmery M., Trezza V., Hill M. N., Campolongo P. Enhancing endocannabinoid neurotransmission augments the efficacy of extinction training and ameliorates traumatic stress-induced behavioral alterations in rats. Neuropsychopharmacology 2018; 43:1284-96.
Morena M., Patel S., Bains J. S., Hill M. N. Neurobiological interactions between stress and the endocannabinoid system. Neuropsychopharmacology 2016; 41:80-102.
Morena M., De Castro V., Gray M.J., Palmery M., Trezza V., Roozendaal B., Hill M.N. and Campolongo P. Training associated-emotional arousal shapes endocannabinoid modulation of spatial memory retrieval in rats. J Neurosci 2015; 35:13962-74.
Morena M., Roozendaal B., Trezza V., Ratano P., Peloso A., Hauer D., Atsak P., Trabace L., Cuomo V., McGaugh J.L., Schelling G. and Campolongo P. Endogenous cannabinoid release within prefrontal-limbic pathways affects memory consolidation of emotional training. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2014; 111:18333-8.
Full list of publications
Aug 2019 Meeting Co-Chair Gordon Research Seminar “Amygdala Function in Emotion, Cognition & Disease”
Mar 2019 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Seal of Excellence, awarded by the European Commission, Horizon 2020
Jan 2019 2018 Postdoctoral Researcher of the Year Award (second place) awarded by the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (University of Calgary)
Jul 2018 ICRS Poster Presentation Award 2018 - 28th Annual ICRS symposium on Cannabinoids
Apr 2018 Young Research Award 2017 - Sapienza University, Rome
Mar 2018 2018 FENS-IBRO/PERC Travel Award - 11th FENS Forum of Neuroscience
Oct 2017 Otsuka 2017 Prize for Young Scientist - Italian Society of Pharmacology
Jan 2017 2016 Postdoctoral Researcher of the Year Award (2nd place) - University of Calgary
Jan 2017 HBI Trainee Publication Award 2016 awarded by University of Calgary
Sept 2016 2016 Dr. Hubert van Tol Travel Grant - the Brain Canada Foundation
Aug 2016 SFN Trainee Professional Development Award - SFN Meeting 2016
Jun 2016 ACNP Travel Award - the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
Mar 2016 2015 Postdoctoral Researcher of the Year Award (1st place) - University of Calgary
Jan 2016 Young Research Award 2015 - Sapienza University, Rome
Jan 2016 HBI Trainee Publication Award - University of Calgary
Sep 2015 SIF-Farmindustria-2015 Prize – Italian Society of Pharmacology
Oct 2013 Oral communication prize - 36th SIF Conference
May 2016-Apr 2018 Canadian Institutes of Health and Research (CIHR) Postdoctoral national competitive grant (CAN$ 135,000)
Apr 2016-Apr 2018 Alberta Innovates Health Solutions (AIHS) Postdoctoral provincial competitive grant (CAN$ 165,000)
Apr 2016 Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education” Postdoctoral competitive grant, declined
Apr 2016 Cumming School of Medicine Postdoctoral Scholarship, declined
Apr 2013 - Oct 2013 SIF research fellowship - Italian Society of Pharmacology (€ 6,000)
Oct 2012-Nov 2012 DAAD research fellowship - German Academic Exchange Service (€ 1,000)
Nov 2011-Oct 2013 PhD fellowship – Italian Ministry of Education (€ 40,900)
I received my M.Sc. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, my Pharm.D. and Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology at Sapienza University of Rome (Italy), in the laboratory of Dr. Patrizia Campolongo. During my M.Sc. and Ph.D. I worked on the interaction between the endocannabinoid system, stress hormones and emotional arousal in the modulation of aversive and spatial memory and the effects of anesthetic agents on emotional memory consolidation.