Thanos Tzounopoulos, PhD

Endowed Professor, Otolaryngology


10021 Biomedical Science Tower 3
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PhD, Vollum Institute (1998)


Cellular mechanisms for learning and memory and their role in auditory processing.

Research Summary

Mechanisms of synaptic plasticity have traditionally been ascribed to higher-order sensory processing areas such as the cortex, whereas early sensory processing centers have been considered largely hard-wired. However, recent results from our lab and human studies have revealed remarkable evidence for cellular and behavioral mechanisms for learning and memory in early stages of sensory processing. We are investigating the cellular mechanisms underlying synaptic and intrinsic plasticity in sensory systems and in their role for normal and pathological sensory processing.

A second area of our research focuses on tinnitus and its underlying cellular mechanisms. The nervous system is plastic; expression of neural plasticity can lead to compensation for loss of function and adaptation to changing demands. However, plasticity-induced changes can also cause signs and symptoms of disease, such as tinnitus. Our goal is to understand the maladaptive plasticity mechanisms underlying the development and the establishment of tinnitus.

Thanos Tzounopoulos and his associates employ electrophysiological, imaging and behavioral approaches to answer these questions.


Ankur Joshi, Bopanna I. Kalappa, Charles T. Anderson and Thanos Tzounopoulos (2016). Cell-Specific Cholinergic Modulation of Excitability of Layer 5B Principal Neurons in Mouse Auditory Cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 2016 Aug 10;36(32):8487-99.
Kumar M, Reed N, Liu R, Aizenman E, Wipf P, Tzounopoulos T (2016). Synthesis and Evaluation of Potent KCNQ2/3-specific Channel Activators. Mol Pharmacol. 2016 Mar 22. pii: mol.115.103200.
Bopanna I. Kalappa, Charles T. Anderson, Jacob M. Goldberg, Stephen J. Lippard, Thanos Tzounopoulos (2015). AMPA Receptor Inhibition by Synaptically Released Zinc. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (PNAS), 2015 Dec 8. pii: 201512296
Li S., Kalappa B.I, and Tzounopoulos T (2015). Noise-Induced Plasticity of KCNQ2/3 and HCN Channels Underlies Vulnerability and Resilience to Tinnitus. Elife 2015;10.7554/eLife.07242.
Anderson C.T, Radford R.J, Zatsrow M.L, Zhang D.Y, Apfel U, Lippard S.J, and Tzounopoulos T (2015). Modulation of Extrasynaptic NMDA Receptors by Synaptic and Tonic Zinc. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (PNAS), 2015 May 6. pii: 201503348.
Bopanna I. Kalappa, Heun Soh, Kevin Duignan, Takeru Furuya, Scott Edwards, Anastassios V.Tzingounis and Thanos Tzounopoulos (2015). Potent KCNQ2/3-specific channel activator suppresses in vivo epileptic activity and prevents the development of tinnitus. Journal of Neuroscience, 2015 Jun 10;35(23):8829-42.


Middleton, J.W., Kiritani, T., Pedersen, C., Turner, J., Shepherd, G.M.G. and Tzounopoulos, T. Mice with Behavioral Evidence of Tinnitus Exhibit Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus Hyperactivity Due to Decreased GABAergic Inhibition. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A (2011, In Press)

Zhao, Y. and Tzounopoulos, T. Physiological Activation of Cholinergic Inputs Controls Associative Synaptic Plasticity via Modulation of Endocannabinoid Signaling. J. of Neuroscience Mar 2;31(9): 3158-68, 2011.

Tzounopoulos, T. and Kraus, N. Learning to Encode Timing: Mechanisms of Plasticity in the Auditory Brainstem. Neuron, May 28; 62(4): 463-9, 2009.

Zhao, Y., Rubio, M. and Tzounopoulos, T. Distinct Functional and Anatomical Architecture of Endocannabinoid System in the Auditory Brainstem. J Neurophysiol 101: 2434-2446, 2009

Tzounopoulos, T., Rubio, M., Keen, J. and Trussell, L. Coactivation of Pre- and Postsynaptic Signaling Mechanisms Determines Cell-specific Spike Timing-Dependent Plasticity. Neuron, 54, 291-301, 2007.

Tzounopoulos, T., Kim, Y., Oertel, D. and Trussell, L. Cell-specific, Spike Timing Dependent Plasticities in the Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus. Nature Neuroscience, 7, 719-725, 2004.