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Marco Venniro, PhD

Academic Title:

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:


Secondary Appointment(s):



HSF I, 280H

Phone (Primary):

(410) 706-1395


Marco received a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Palermo in 2012. He was then accepted into the NIH Graduate Partnership Program. Following a 2-year fellowship at the National Institute on Drug Abuse Marco received his Ph.D. in translational biomedicine from the University of Verona in 2016. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Yavin Shaham in 2020. He joined the University of Maryland School of Medicine as an assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology in 2020.

Marco is interested in behavior and translational research with a focus on the social component of neuropsychiatric disorders. He is particularly interested in understanding how alternative nondrug rewards can be used to control and treat drug addiction with a focus on social reward. He is now working to adapt his recently published social-choice operant model to study the neural mechanisms governing social behavior, drug addiction, and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Translation, Animal models, Substance Use Disorders, Social Reward, Amygdala, Decision Making

Highlighted Publications

  • Venniro M, Banks ML, Heilig M, Epstein DH, Shaham Y. Improving translation of animal models of addiction and relapse by reverse translation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2020. 

  • Venniro M, Russell TI, Ramsey LA, Richie CT, Lesscher HMB, Giovanetti SM, Messing RO, Shaham Y. Abstinence-dependent dissociable central amygdala microcircuits control drug craving. PNAS. 2020. 

  • Venniro M, Shaham Y. An operant social self-administration and choice model in rats. Nature Protocols. 2020.

  • Venniro M, Russell TI, Zhang M, Shaham Y. Operant social reward decreases incubation of heroin craving in male and female rats. Biological Psychiatry. 2019. 

  • Venniro M, Zhang M, Caprioli D, Hoots JK, Golden SA, Heins C, Morales M, Epstein DH, Shaham Y. Volitional social interaction prevents drug addiction in rat models. Nature Neuroscience. 2018. 

  • Venniro M, Caprioli D, Zhang M, Whitaker LR, Zang S, Warren BL, Cifani C, Marchant NJ, Yizhar O, Bossert JM, Chiamulera C, Morales M, Shaham Y. The anterior insular cortex—>central amygdala glutamatergic pathway is critical to relapse after contingency management. Neuron. 2017. 

  • Caprioli D*, Venniro M*, Zhang M, Bossert JM, Warren BL, Hope BT, Shaham Y. Role of dorsomedial striatum neuronal ensembles in incubation of methamphetamine craving after voluntary abstinence. Journal of Neuroscience. 2017. *Co-first author.

  • Venniro M, Zhang M, Shaham Y, Caprioli D. Incubation of methamphetamine but not heroin craving after voluntary abstinence in male and female rats. Neuropsychopharmacology 2017. 

  • Venniro M, Caprioli D, Shaham Y. Animal models of drug relapse: from drug priming induced reinstatement to incubation of craving after voluntary abstinence. Progress in Brain Research. 2016.

Additional Publication Citations

Awards and Affiliations

2019                12th NIH Matilda White Riley Honors: Early Stage Investigator Paper Awardees

2019                EBPS Young Scientist Award (Braga, Portugal)

2019                Top 10 reviewers of Neuropsychopharmacology for 2019

2019-2024       K99/R00 NIH Pathway to Independence Award

2021-2023       Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator Award

Grants and Contracts

- K99/R00 NIH Pathway to Independence Award (2019-2024; Role: PI)

The protective effect of volitional social interaction on drug addiction

The goal of this project is to study the circuit mechanisms underlying the protective effect of social reward on methamphetamine addiction, and the neural encoding mechanisms of the social interaction versus methamphetamine choice.

- Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator Award (2021-2023; Role: PI)

Neuronal ensembles encoding social reward preference over opioids

The goal of this project is to investigate the neural encoding mechanisms of positive social interaction versus opioid choice using in vivo electrophysiology.

In the News

Links of Interest