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University of Pittsburgh



thanos tzounopoulos

Thanos Tzounopoulos, PhD

Associate Professor
Biomedical Science Tower 3
3501 Fifth Avenue Room 3017
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Phone: 412-383-8626


Positions Available

We are always looking for highly committed students and postdocs. If you are interested, please email me at:


After earning my undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Athens in Greece, I came to the US as a Fulbright Scholar. I was awarded his Ph.D. in Molecular and Medical Genetics at Oregon Health and Science University in 1997. I then completed my postdoctoral research at the University of California at San Francisco; Vollum Institute and at the Oregon Hearing Research Center. I was appointed as Assistant Professor at the Chicago Medical School in May 2006 and moved to University of Pittsburgh in November 2008.

Current Research

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. Our current studies are focusing on the role of zinc as a novel neurotransmitter in the brain. In collaboration with chemist Dr. Lippard of MIT, a pioneer in the development of zinc chelators and sensors, we are currently assessing the dynamics and the functional role of synaptically-released zinc in the brain with novel tools.

A second area of our research focuses on tinnitus and its underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms. Based on our recent findings on the molecular mechanisms underlying the induction of tinnitus and in collaboration with the medicinal chemist Dr. Peter Wipf of the University of Pittsburgh, we are developing and testing novel specific Kv7.2/3 agonists for preventing the triggering of tinnitus. Moreover, our current tinnitus-related studies are aimed towards understanding the neuronal mechanisms that underlie the maintenance of tinnitus.

A third area of our research focuses on the circuit, synaptic and intrinsic mechanisms via which cortical (A1) projection neurons mediate top-down modulation of auditory processing in normal and disease states.


Recent Publications

Ankur Joshi, Jason Middleton, Charles T. Anderson, Katharine Borges, Benjamin Suter, Gordon M. G. Shepherd and Thanos Tzounopoulos (2015). Cell-specific, activity-dependent fractionation of layer 2/3→5B excitatory signaling in mouse auditory cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 2015 Feb 18;35(7):3112-23.

Li S., Choi V., and Tzounopoulos T (2013). Pathogenic Plasticity of Kv7.2/3 Channel Activity is Essential for the Induction of Tinnitus. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (PNAS), 2013 June 11; 110 (24) 9980-9985.

Perez-Rosello T., Anderson C., Schopfer F., Zhao Y., Gilad D., Salvatore S., Freeman B., Hershfinkel M., Aizenman E., and Thanos Tzounopoulos (2013). Synaptically Released Zn2+ Inhibits Neurotransmitter Release by Promoting Endocannabinoid Synthesis. Journal of Neuroscience, 2013 May 29;33(22):9259-72).

Leao RM, Li S, Doiron B, Tzounopoulos T (2012). Diverse levels of an inwardly rectifying potassium conductance generate heterogeneous neuronal behavior in a population of dorsal cochlear nucleus pyramidal neurons. Journal of Neurophysiology, 2012 Jun;107(11):3008-19.

Doiron B, Zhao Y, Tzounopoulos T (2011). Combined LTP and LTD of Modulatory Inputs Controls Neuronal Processing of Primary Sensory Inputs. Journal of Neuroscience, 2011 Jul 20;31(29):10579-92.

Jason W. Middleton,Taro Kiritani, Courtney Pedersen, Jeremy Turner, Gordon M. G. Shepherd, Thanos Tzounopoulos (2011). Mice with Behavioral Evidence of Tinnitus Exhibit Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus Hyperactivity Due to Decreased GABAergic Inhibition. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (PNAS), 2011 May 3;108(18):7601-6.

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

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

Tzounopoulos T, Maria Rubio, John Keen and Larry Trussell (2007). Coactivation of Pre- and Postsynaptic Signaling Mechanisms Determines Cell-specific Spike Timing-Dependent Plasticity. Neuron, 2007 Apr 19;54(2):291-301.


News and Views Articles on Our Work

The Science Business eXchange(2013): Potassium channel Kv7.2 (KCNQ2); KCNQ3
The Hearing Journal (2013): Noise-Induced Tinnitus Linked to Lower Potassium Channel Activity
Εθνικός Κήρυξ (2013): Θα σώσει εκατομμύρια η έρευνα του Θάνου Τζουνόπουλου
NIH/NIDCD (2013): Grantee news
Journal of Neuroscience (2013): This Week in The Journal
Department of Defense (2013): Mechanisms Underlying Noise-Induced Tinnitus
Wall Street Journal (2011): Finding the Pathways to a Cause of Tinnitus
Voice of America (2011): Research Shows Tinnitus May Affect Brain Responses
National Public Radio (2011): Study Finds Cause for Tinnitus
Science Daily (2011): Tinnitus Caused by Too Little Inhibition of Brain Auditory Circuits

Lab Members


Postdoctoral Fellows

Charles Anderson, PhD

Bopanna Kalappa, PhD

Shuang Li, PhD

Graduate Students

Ankur Joshi

Nathan Vogler

Medical Student

Kortni Watkins

Undergraduate Student

Cindy Ling