Marc Schneeberger Pané

2020 Regional Award Finalist — Post-Doc

Marc Schneeberger Pané

Current Position:
Postdoctoral Fellow

The Rockefeller University


Recognized for: Discovering that a specific area of the brain usually associated with mood and wakefulness also controls energy balance and body weight by regulating feeding behavior and body temperature. Two types of neurons in this area are activated by different energy states (hunger, satiety) or with temperature challenges (heat). Obesity is a disease in which energy balance is dysregulated, so this new finding offers promise for developing novel drugs to treat this chronic, widespread condition.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Obesity, Energy Balance, Neuroscience, Feeding Behavior

Previous Positions:

BSc, University of Barcelona, Spain
MSc, University of Barcelona, Spain
PhD, August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute, Spain (Advisor: Dr. Marc Claret)

Research Summary:

Energy balance refers to the body’s ability to balance how many calories it takes in and how many calories it burns—this regulation is critical for survival, growth, and reproduction. Taking in too many calories or not burning enough calories can lead to chronic diseases such as obesity. Marc Schneeberger Pané, PhD, has expanded our understanding of how the brain evaluates calorie consumption and environmental factors, like temperature, to fine tune the body’s ability to optimize energy balance.

Eating is such a vital behavior that multiple physiological systems and brain regions have evolved to regulate it. This complexity has made finding effective treatments for diseases like obesity difficult. Schneeberger Pané discovered that two types of neurons in the brain area called the dorsal raphe nucleus are activated by fasting and feeding. One cell type, referred to as the Vgat neuron, is activated during fasting and encourages the animal to eat. Activating Vgat neurons with drugs increases feeding behavior, even if an animal had already eaten a meal. The other cell type, called the Vglut3 neuron, is activated during feeding and prompts the animal to stop eating. When Vglut3 neurons are artificially activated, an animal decreases feeding behavior, even if it is hungry.

These neurons not only responded to caloric intake but also responded to increased temperature—an environmental challenge whereby an animal must burn fewer calories to avoid overheating. Schneeberger Pané chemically activated Vgat neurons, which resulted in a decrease in locomotion and the body’s ability to increase body temperature. Taken together, this new understanding of how the dorsal raphe nucleus can alter the body’s ability to intake and burn calories could lead to the discovery of a novel, effective drug for obesity.

There is no bigger reward than seeing how your own mentoring helps someone succeed on a specific problem. By doing so, science wins. I have been lucky to have lots of individuals mentor me in my journey through science. I believe it is a treasure to have gotten so much valuable input to shape my own approach to science. It has been crucial to listen and understand different approaches to problems, and then, choose my own best path.

Key Publications:

  1. P.A. Muller, F. Matheis, M. Schneeberger, Z. Kerner, et al. Microbiota modulate sympathetic neurons via a gut-brain circuit.Science, 2020.

  2. M. Schneeberger, L. Parolari, T. Das Banarjee, V. Bhave, et al. Regulation of energy expenditure by brainstem GABA neurons. Cell, 2019.

  3. M. Schneeberger , K. Tan, A.R. Nectow, L. Parolari, et al. Functional analysis reveals differential effects of glutamate and MCH neuropeptide in MCH neurons. Molecular Metabolism, 2018.

  4. A.R. Nectow, M. Schneeberger, H. Zhang, B. C. Field, et al. Identification of a brainstem circuit controlling feeding. Cell, 2017.

Other Honors:

2019K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, NIDDK
2018Robertson Therapeutic Development Fund, The Rockefeller University
2019Ramon Margalef Award, University of Barcelona
2018Young Investigator Data Blitz Winner, Helmholtz Diabetes Zentrum
2017KAVLI NSI Postdoctoral Fellowship, The Rockefeller University
2016Federico Olóriz Prize in Neuroscience, Granda University, Spain
2015Albert Reynolds Award, European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD)


In the Media:

The Rockefeller University, Science News – Microbes in the gut may influence metabolism

The Rockefeller University, Science News – New research raises prospect of better anti-obesity drugs

The Kavli Foundation – Hunger-Controlling Brain Cells May Offer Path for New Obesity Drugs

The Sun – MIND TRICKS New drug could help combat obesity after scientists discover being fat 'is all in your head'