Elliot Stein, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Neuroimaging Research Branch, Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychopharmacology Section


Biomedical Research Center
251 Bayview Boulevard
Suite 200, Room 07A711A
Baltimore, MD 21224



Research Topics

Our research is directed at understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying human drug use and addiction. Using a number of MRI based (e.g. fMRI, MR spectroscopy, functional connectivity, DTI) and PET (dopamine, serotonin systems) imaging techniques in both human and animal models, we aim to understand how both acute and chronic drug administration alters neuronal and cognitive processing and subsequent behavioral outcome. Our human imaging research, centered mostly on cocaine and nicotine dependence, emphasizes the importance of cognitive, affective, personality and environmental interactions with the drug’s pharmacological properties. More recent studies are examining these properties in marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamine users. Drug using individuals and healthy matched control subjects are employed to test specific hypotheses related to such cognitive constructs as attention, reward processing, craving, affect, decision making and response inhibition. The consequences of chronic drug use on systems level neuroplasticity are examined longitudinally during drug withdrawal and treatment regimens. Together with our collaborators, we have begun to examine how specific individual genetic polymorphisms help explain the group variance imaging endophenotypes to better understand trait related predisposition and hopefully, treatment outcome. Finally, rodent and non-human primate imaging models are employed to address the biophysical bases of the fMRI signal and, using chronic drug use models unavailable in human research, better understand where and how various neuropharmacological manipulations alter local and circuit level neuronal functions. The long-term goal of this research is to develop more efficacious strategies to both treat existing and help prevent future drug use in high risk populations.

Selected Publications

  1. Flannery JS, Riedel MC, Poudel R, Laird AR, Ross TJ, Salmeron BJ, Stein EA, Sutherland MT. Habenular and striatal activity during performance feedback are differentially linked with state-like and trait-like aspects of tobacco use disorder. Sci Adv. 2019;5(10):eaax2084.

  2. Lerman C, Gu H, Loughead J, Ruparel K, Yang Y, Stein EA. Large-scale brain network coupling predicts acute nicotine abstinence effects on craving and cognitive function. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(5):523-30.

  3. Lesage E, Sutherland MT, Ross TJ, Salmeron BJ, Stein EA. Nicotine dependence (trait) and acute nicotinic stimulation (state) modulate attention but not inhibitory control: converging fMRI evidence from Go-Nogo and Flanker tasks. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2020;45(5):857-865.

  4. Hu Y, Salmeron BJ, Gu H, Stein EA, Yang Y. Impaired functional connectivity within and between frontostriatal circuits and its association with compulsive drug use and trait impulsivity in cocaine addiction. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(6):584-92.

  5. Keeley RJ, Hsu LM, Brynildsen JK, Lu H, Yang Y, Stein EA. Intrinsic differences in insular circuits moderate the negative association between nicotine dependence and cingulate-striatal connectivity strength. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2020;45(6):1042-1049.

This page was last updated on August 31st, 2021