Interdisciplinary Approaches to Addiction Research

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

By bringing together researchers from different disciplines, the IRP tackles some of the biggest questions in science from multiple angles. Here are just a few examples of the many diverse approaches that Intramural scientists take to better understand addiction.

Alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs effect a devastating toll on society. The NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates annual costs associated with substance abuse in the U.S. at more $700 million, including lost work productivity, healthcare costs, and crime.

Three IRP scientists, who are highlighted below and represent only a fraction of our many talented research groups studying addiction in its various forms, each approach the problem from very different points of view:

1. Behavior

As a Senior Investigator and Chief of the Cellular Neurobiology Research Branch and the Behavioral Neurophysiology Neuroscience Section at NIDA, Geoffrey Schoenbaum, M.D., Ph.D., leads a lab that examines addiction as a behavioral disorder. The team works to better understand how behavior control happens at a neural systems level. Learn more about his research approach in this video featuring Dr. Schoenbaum:

2. Genetics

Veronica Alvarez, Ph.D., is a Principal Investigator and Acting Chief of the Section on Neuronal Structure in the Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience at NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Dr. Alvarez also has a joint appointment in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). She leads a team or researchers working with genetically engineered mice to investigate the genetic factors that influence addiction. Dr. Alvarez describes her research program in the following video (also available in Spanish):

3. Therapeutic Interventions

Markus Heilig, M.D., Ph.D., is Clinical Director at both NIAAA and NIDA. He also serves as the Chief of the Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies (LCTS) at NIAAA. Dr. Heilig uses translational approaches to discover new medications for alcohol addiction. He is currently working to understand why certain individuals respond to Naltrexone, one of the few approved therapies for alcoholism, while others do not. Hear more about his team’s research, in Dr. Hellig’s own words:

Category: Science

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