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  2. Graziano Pinna

Graziano Pinna PhD

Graziano Pinna
  • Associate Professor
  • Department of Psychiatry
  • University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine
Contact Information
  • gpinna [at]
  • (312) 355-1464
  • School of Public Health / Psychiatric Institute (SPHPI)
    1601 W. Taylor St.
    SPHPI MC 912
    Chicago IL 60612
  • Room #:409

Graziano Pinna, PhD, main research focus is on PTSD Research and Education. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UIC. He earned her undergraduate degree and a Laurea of Doctor at University of Cagliari (Italy). He obtained a PhD in Neuroendocrinology at the Free University of Berlin (Berlin, Germany) before being appointed as Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, UIC.

Dr. Pinna’s basic research focused on understanding the role of neurosteroids in the pathophysiology of mood disorders and the dysfunction neurocircuitry involved with mood instability, including the basolateral amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus. His research expands to clinical trials to study the efficacy of new treatment for mood disorders in collaboration with several psychiatrists and clinical psychologists at UIC, Boston University, Johns Hopkins, University of Virginia, Harvard University, and Cornell University. His work has contributed to the neurobiological underpinnings that contribute to PTSD risk and stress resilience. This line of research includes a special emphasis on sex differences in the neurobiology of PTSD and the role played by neurosteroids and endocannabinoids in the treatment of PTSD and other mood disorders. His lab is currently part of 3 NIH funded research grants, including a RO1 grant that will study the efficacy of IV allopregnanolone in the pathophysiology of PTSD. He received grants from several grant foundations, including NIH, DOD, and VA. He has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed papers, reviews, and chapters. He is a deputy editor in Stress&Health (Wiley), and a member of the editorial board of Neuropharmacology, Progress in Neurpsychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, Molecules, among others.

  • psychiatry
    1. Mechanism of action of antidepressant, anxiolytic, and antiaggressive drugs in several mouse models of affective/cognitive disorders, including aggressive behavior, schizophrenia, and PTSD
    2. Developing new therapies for PTSD and anxiety disorders
    3. Epigenetic mechanisms and psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia
    4. Understanding emotional brain circuits that mediate cognitive and affective processes in PTSD mouse models
    5. Physiological role of neurosteroid allopregnanolone on GABAA receptor function
    6. Pharmacology of GABAA receptor modulators
    7. Mechanisms that lead to anabolic androgenic steroid (AAS)-induced behavioral deficits and the study of molecules that reverse the behavioral and neurochemical dysfunction induced by AAS treatment
    8. Function of GABAA receptors in mouse models of anxiolytic drug tolerance and dependence
  • Publications in peer-reviewed journals from 2018


    1. Gunay A, and Pinna G. The novel rapid-acting neurosteroid-based antidepressant generation. Current Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research. 2022
    2. Rasmusson AM, Novikov O, Brown KD, Pinna G, Pineles SL. Pleiotropic Endophenotypic and Phenotype Effects of GABAergic Neurosteroid Synthesis Deficiency in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Current Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research. 2022
    3. Pinna G, Almeida FB, Davis JM. Allopregnanolone in post-partum depression. Frontiers in Global Women's Health. DOI: 10.3389/fgwh.2022.823616.
    4. Rasmusson AM, Pineles SL, Brown KD, Pinna G. A Role for Deficits in GABAergic Neurosteroids and their Metabolites with NMDA Receptor Antagonist Activity in the Pathophysiology of PTSD. J. Neuroendocrinology



    1. Wenzel ES, Pinna G, Eisenlohr-Moul T, Bernabe BP, Tallon RR, Nagelli U, Davis J, Maki PM. Neuroactive steroids and depression in early pregnancy. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2021 Sep 24;134:105424. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2021.105424. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34607173.
    2. Matrisciano F, Pinna G. PPAR-α Hypermethylation in the Hippocampus of Mice Exposed to Social Isolation Stress Is Associated with Enhanced Neuroinflammation and Aggressive Behavior. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 1;22(19):10678. doi: 10.3390/ijms221910678. PMID: 34639019; PMCID: PMC8509148
    3. Santovito LS, Pinna G. A case of reactivation of varicella–zoster virus after BNT162b2 vaccine second dose? Inflammation Research, 1-3. 2021
    4. Santovito LS, Pinna G. Acute reduction of visual acuity and visual field after Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 2nd dose: a case report. Inflamm Res. 2021 Jun 4:1–3. doi: 10.1007/s00011-021-01476-9. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34086060; PMCID: PMC8176659.
    5. Almeida FB, Pinna G, Barros HMT. The Role of HPA Axis and Allopregnanolone on the Neurobiology of Major Depressive Disorders and PTSD. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 May 23;22(11):5495. doi: 10.3390/ijms22115495. PMID: 34071053
    6. Pinna G. Endocannabinoids and Precision Medicine for Mood Disorders and Suicide. Front Psychiatry. 2021 May 20;12:658433. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.658433. PMID: 34093274; PMCID: PMC8173054.
    7. Almeida FB, Barros HMT, Pinna G. Neurosteroids and Neurotrophic Factors: What Is Their Promise as Biomarkers for Major Depression and PTSD? Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Feb 10;22(4):1758. doi: 10.3390/ijms22041758. PMID: 33578758; PMCID: PMC7916492.
    8. Jacobson MH, Stein CR, Liu M, Ackerman MG, Blakemore JK, Long SE, Pinna G, Romay-Tallon R, Kannan K, Zhu H, Trasande L. Prenatal exposure to bisphenols and phthalates and postpartum depression: The role of neurosteroid hormone disruption. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2021 Apr 1:dgab199. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgab199. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33792735.
    9. Pinna G. Sex and COVID-19: A role for reproductive steroids. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism. (Media Release)



    1. Gatta E, Guidotti A, Saudagar V, Grayson GR, Aspesi D, Pandey SC, Pinna G. Epigenetic regulation of GABAergic neurotransmission and neurosteroid biosynthesis in alcohol use disorder. Int. J. Neuropsychopharmachology. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyaa073.
    2. Pinna G. Allopregnanolone (1938-2019): A trajectory of 80 years of outstanding scientific achievement. Neurobiology of Stress. Volume 13, November 2020, 100246 doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2020.100246
    3. Pineles SL, Nillni YI, Pinna G, Webb A, Arditte Hall KA, Fonda J, Irvine J, King M, Hauger R, Resick PA, Orr SP, & Rasmusson AM: Associations between PTSD-related extinction retention deficits and plasma steroids active at brain GABA-A and NMDA receptors. Neurobiology of Stress. 2020, 13, 100225. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2020.100225
    4. Hamidovic A, Kapetyan K, Serdarevic F, Choi SH, Eisenlohr-Moul T, Pinna G. Higher circulating cortisol in the follicular vs. luteal phase of the menstrual cycle: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in Endocrinology. DOI: 10.3389/fendo.2020.00311
    5. Matrisciano F and Pinna G. PPAR and functional foods: Rationale for natural neurosteroid-based interventions for postpartum depression. Neurobiology of Stress 12:100222 DOI: 
    6. Kim BK, Fonda JR, Hauger RL, Pinna G, Anderson GM, Valovski IT, Rasmusson AM. Composite independent contributions of multiple CSF biomarkers to PTSD severity in men. Neurobiology of Stress 12:100220 DOI: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2020.100220
    7. Pinna G. Allopregnanolone, the neuromodulator turned therapeutic agent: Thank you, next? Front. Endocrinol. 11:236. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2020.00236
    8. Paul SM, Pinna G, Guidotti A: Allopregnanolone: From Molecular Pathophysiology to Therapeutics. A Historical Perspective. Neurobiology of Stress 12: 100215 DOI: 
    9. Tufano M and Pinna G: Role of PPARs in the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders. Molecules. 25 (5) 2020 Feb 27. PMID: 32120979. DOI: 10.3390/molecules25051062
    10. Brymer KJ, Johnston J, Botterill JJ, Romay-Tallon R, Mitchell MA, Allen J, Pinna G, Caruncho HJ, Lisa E Kalynchuk Fast-acting antidepressant-like effects of Reelin evaluated in the repeated-corticosterone chronic stress paradigm. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2020 Jan 11. doi: 10.1038/s41386-020-0609-z
    11. Kimball A, Dichtel LE, Nyer MB, Mischoulon D, Fisher LB, Cusin C, Dording CM, Trinh NH, Yeung A, Schorr M, Sung JC, Pinna G, Rasmusson AM, Carpenter LL, Fava M, Klibanski A, Miller KK: The neuroactive steroid allopregnanolone across the menstrual cycle and in menopause. Psychoneuroendocrinology. Volume 112, February 2020, 104512. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.104512.



    1. Pinna G: Animal models of PTSD: The socially isolated mouse and the biomarker role of allopregnanolone. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. 2019 Jun 11;13:114. DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00114
    2. Raber J, Arzy S, Boulanger J, Depue B, LeDoux J, Lowry CA, Pinna G, et al.,: Current understanding of fear learning and memory in humans and animal models and the value of a linguistic approach for analyzing fear learning and memory in humans. In “The Affectome Project”. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 2019. pii: S0149-7634(18)30642-0. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.03.015
    3. Locci A and Pinna G: Stimulation of PPAR-α by N-palmitoylethanolamine engages allopregnanolone biosynthesis to modulate emotional behavior. Biological Psychiatry. 85: 1036-1045. 2019.
    4. Aspesi D and Pinna G: Animal models of PTSD and novel treatment options. Behavioral Pharmacology 30:130-150. 2019.
    5. Locci A and Pinna G: Social isolation as a promising animal model of PTSD comorbid suicide: neurosteroids and cannabinoids as possible treatment options. Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 92: 243-259. 2019.
    6. Rasmusson A, King A, Pineles S, Valovski I, Gregor K, Scioli-Salter E, Hamouda M, Nillni Y, Pinna G. Relationships between cerebrospinal fluid GABAergic neurosteroid levels and symptom severity in men with PTSD. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 102: 95-104. 2019.



    1. Aspesi D and Pinna G: Could a blood test for PTSD be on the horizon? Expert Review of Proteomics. 15: 983-1006. 2018 doi: 10.1080/14789450.2018.1544894.
    2. Pinna G. Biomarkers for PTSD at the interface of the endocannabinoid and neurosteroid axis. Frontiers in Neuroscience 12:482. 2018 doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00482
    3. Nisbett KE and Pinna G: Emerging therapeutic role of PPAR-alpha in cognition and emotions. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2018. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2018.00998
    4. Pineles, S.L., Nillni, Y.I., Pinna, G., Irvine, J., Webb, A., Arditte Hall, K. A., Hauger, R.,Miller, M. W., Resick, P.A., Orr, S.P., & Rasmusson, A.M., PTSD in women is associated with a block in conversion of progesterone to the GABAergic neurosteroids allopregnanolone and pregnanolone: confirmed in plasma. Psychoneuroendocrinology 93:133-141. 2018. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.04.024.
    5. Dichtel LE, Lawson EA, Schorr M, Meenaghan E, Paskal ML, Eddy KT, Pinna G, Nelson M, Rasmusson AM, Klibanski A, and Miller KK. Neuroactive steroids and affective symptoms in women across the weight spectrum. Neuropsychopharmacology 43:1436-1444. 2018. doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.269 (Media release).


Title Description Investigator(s) Category Status
Cyclical Neuroactive Steroid Changes, Arousal, and Proximal Suicide Risk: An Experimental Approach R01-NIMH-120843 Experimentally delineating the neurosteroid pathways which may be involved in perimenstrual worsening of depression and suicide risk.  CLEAR – Eisenlohr-Moul Lab On-going
Facilitation of Extinction Retention and Reconsolidation Blockade by IV Allopregnanolone in PTSD NIMH 1R01MH122867-01    01/01/20-12/31/25    NIH/NIMH The overarching aim of the proposed work is to examine the efficacy of acute IV allopregnanolone administration on fear extinction retention and reconsolidation blockade in participants with PTSD. Pinna Lab On-going
Gender differences in neurosteroid levels in patients with PTSD VA241-15-D-0041   03/2016-07/2020   Department of Veterans Affairs    The major goal of the project is to investigate the serum and CSF levels of neurosteroids (allopregnanolone, 5alpha DHP, and progesterone; testosterone). Pinna Lab On-going
Neuroactive Steroid Withdrawal and Proximal Suicide Risk: Perimenstrual Hormone Stabilization as a Mechanistic Probe 1RF1MH120843    07/01/19-06/31/2023   NIH/NIMH The major goal of this project is to study an experimental probe and highly sensitive GC-MS measurement to examine the role of acute changes in neuroactive steroid biosynthesis (i.e., neuroactive steroid withdrawal) in proximal suicide risk. Pinna Lab On-going
PTSD-Related Neurobiological Mediators of Negative Pregnancy Outcomes 1K23HD087428-01A1   9/1/2017-7/31/2022 Pinna Lab On-going
Testosterone and estrogen signaling pathways in the medial amygdala interact to control energy homeostasis NIH   09/2020-10/2025    The overarching aim of the proposed investigation is to study the regulatory role of estrogens and androgens in energy homeostasis by activating estrogen receptor beta (ER) and androgen receptor (AR) in the medial amygdala of both female and male mice under several genetic interventions. Pinna Lab On-going
Cannabinoid-induced Upregulation of Neurosteroid Levels Improves Fear Responses DOD   09/2015-02/2020    This study investigates new PTSD biomarkers, including PPAR-alpha and endocannabinoids and their role in the regulation of dysfunctional behavior (fear, aggression, and anxiety-like depressive-like behavior) via activation of neurosteroid biosynthesis in mouse models of PTSD. Pinna Lab Completed

*System-generated list from psychiatry research website.