Saturnino Spiga

Saturnino Spiga

Saturnino Spiga

Address: Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, Via T. Fiorelli, 1, 09126 Cagliari
Phone: +39 070 6758052
Fax: + 39 070 6758022


  • 1986 Degree in Biological Sciences Institute of Zoology. University of Cagliari, Italy.
  • 1996 Short-Term Visiting Researchers, Brain Research Institute, University of Bremen, Germany
  • 2005 – 2006 Visiting researcher, Aidekman Research. Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience. Rutgers The State University of New Jersey (USA).
  • 2010 PhD in Morphological and Functional Sciences. Dept. of Cytomorphology. University of Cagliari.2011 Short-Term Visiting Researchers, University of Puerto Rico, S. Juan

Present position

Associate Professor of Comparative anatomy


2011 Start Cup: Local Phase (Sassari) first classified
Start Cup (Sardinian Phase) first classified
2011 European Patent Office: Simultaneous Golgi-Cox and immunofluorescence using confocal microscopy (PD2011A000081)

Scientific Affiliations

  • Unione Zoologica Italiana (UZI)
  • Gruppo Italiano per lo studio della neuromorfologia
  • Society for Neuroscience

Biographical sketch

The scientific activity of Saturnino Spiga has been, for the most part, in the field of the anatomical basis for neural plasticity on different neuronal systems such as mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway.
Since the mesolimbic system is shown to be the most important reward pathway in the brain,
heavily implicated in addiction, schizophrenia, depression and Parkinson’s Disease. To study aberrant plasticity, his research has been focused on the use of some drugs of abuse that are able to stimulate the dopaminergic system. In Particular, has identified changes in morphometrical parameters of mesolimbic dopaminergic neurons after withdrawal from chronic treatments with opioids and cannabinoids. In other studies, he showed the morphological effects of opiates, ethanol, acetaldehyde, ecstasy and cannabinoids in various dopaminoceptive areas (nucleus accumbens, prefrontal cortex), after chronic administration and withdrawal. Spiga also developed a new method for the simultaneous Golgi-Cox and immunofluorescence staining which has been patented.

Selected peer-reviewed publications

  1. Spiga S, Mulas G, Piras F, Diana M. The “addicted spine” Front Neuroanat. 2014 Oct 2;8:110. Review.
  2. Melis M, Sagheddu C, De Felice M, Casti A, Madeddu C, Spiga S, Muntoni AL, Mackie K, Marsicano G, Colombo G, Castelli MP, Pistis M. Enhanced endocannabinoid-mediated modulation of rostromedial tegmental nucleus drive onto dopamine neurons in Sardinian alcohol-preferring rats. J Neurosci. 2014 Sep 17;34(38):12716-24.
  3. Spiga S, Talani G, Mulas G, Licheri V, Fois G, Muggironi G, Masala N, Cannizzaro C, Biggio G, Sanna E, Diana M. Hampered LTD formation and thin spine loss in the Nucleus Accumbens of ethanol dependent rats Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Sep 2;111(35):E3745-54
  4. Carta AR, Carboni E, Spiga S. The MPTP/probenecid model of progressive Parkinson’s disease. Methods Mol Biol. 2013;964:295-308.
  5. Spiga S, Lintas A, Diana M. Altered Mesolimbic Dopamine System in THC Dependence. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2011 Mar;9(1):200-4.
  6. Carta AR, Frau L, Pisanu A, Wardas J, Spiga S, Carboni E. Rosiglitazone decreases peroxisome proliferator receptor-γ levels in microglia and inhibits TNF-α production: new evidences on neuroprotection in a progressive Parkinson’s disease model. Neuroscience. 2011 Oct 27;194:250-61.
  7. Spiga S, Acquas E, Puddu MC, Mulas G, Lintas A, Diana M. Simultaneous Golgi-Cox and immunofluorescence using confocal microscopy. Brain Struct Funct. 2011 Sep;216(3):171-82.
  8. Spiga S, Lintas A, Diana M. Addiction and cognitive functions. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008 Oct;1139:299-306. doi: 10.1196/annals.1432.008. Review.
  9. Spiga S, Puddu MC, Pisano M, Diana M. Morphine withdrawal-induced morphological changes in the nucleus accumbens. Eur J Neurosci. 2005 Nov;22(9):2332-40.
  10. Melis M, Spiga S, Diana M. The dopamine hypothesis of drug addiction: hypodopaminergic state. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2005;63:101-54. Review.
  11. Sanna E, Mostallino MC, Busonero F, Talani G, Tranquilli S, Mameli M, Spiga S, Follesa P, Biggio G. Changes in GABA(A) receptor gene expression associated with selective alterations in receptor function and pharmacology after ethanol withdrawal. J Neurosci. 2003 Dec 17;23(37):11711-24.
  12. Spiga S, Serra GP, Puddu MC, Foddai M, Diana M. Morphine withdrawal-induced abnormalities in the VTA: confocal laser scanning microscopy. Eur J Neurosci. 2003
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