Leandro Vendruscolo, Ph.D., Pharm.D., M.Sc.

Stadtman Investigator

Integrative Neuroscience Branch, Joint NIDA/NIAAA Stress and Addiction Neuroscience Unit


Biomedical Research Center
251 Bayview Boulevard
Suite 200, Room 08A727
Baltimore, MD 21224



Research Topics

The research interest of the Stress & Addiction Neuroscience Unit (SANU) involves investigations of the neurobiology that underlies drug- and stress-related behaviors using preclinical models from a translational perspective. Dr. Vendruscolo began his research career in 1999 while he was in Pharmacy School at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, investigating interactions between a psychostimulant and stress. He followed up with M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in pharmacology at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, and University of Bordeaux, France, in which he investigated the influence of sex, genetic background, and environment on stress- and drug-related behaviors. During his postdoctoral training, he found that reward overactivation during adolescence in rats had enduring effects on reward function later in life, consistent with a depression-like phenotype. Moreover, he discovered a critical contribution of corticoids and their receptors on addiction-like behaviors and that the blockade of glucocorticoid receptors or mineralocorticoid receptors decreased alcohol drinking and craving in people with alcohol use disorder. Dr. Vendruscolo has been developing new models of drug addiction and investigating the neurobiology of enhanced drug taking and seeking based on the concept that these maladaptive behaviors involve neurotransmitter imbalance in brain regions that are involved in reward, stress, and executive function.

Selected Publications

  1. Carmack SA, Vendruscolo JCM, Adrienne McGinn M, Miranda-Barrientos J, Repunte-Canonigo V, Bosse GD, Mercatelli D, Giorgi FM, Fu Y, Hinrich AJ, Jodelka FM, Ling K, Messing RO, Peterson RT, Rigo F, Edwards S, Sanna PP, Morales M, Hastings ML, Koob GF, Vendruscolo LF. Corticosteroid sensitization drives opioid addiction. Mol Psychiatry. 2022;27(5):2492-2501.
  2. Farokhnia M, Rentsch CT, Chuong V, McGinn MA, Elvig SK, Douglass EA, Gonzalez LA, Sanfilippo JE, Marchette RCN, Tunstall BJ, Fiellin DA, Koob GF, Justice AC, Leggio L, Vendruscolo LF. Spironolactone as a potential new pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder: convergent evidence from rodent and human studies. Mol Psychiatry. 2022;27(11):4642-4652.
  3. Marchette RCN, Gregory-Flores A, Tunstall BJ, Carlson ER, Jackson SN, Sulima A, Rice KC, Koob GF, Vendruscolo LF. κ-Opioid receptor antagonism reverses heroin withdrawal-induced hyperalgesia in male and female rats. Neurobiol Stress. 2021;14:100325.
  4. Wiers CE, Vendruscolo LF, van der Veen JW, Manza P, Shokri-Kojori E, Kroll DS, Feldman DE, McPherson KL, Biesecker CL, Zhang R, Herman K, Elvig SK, Vendruscolo JCM, Turner SA, Yang S, Schwandt M, Tomasi D, Cervenka MC, Fink-Jensen A, Benveniste H, Diazgranados N, Wang GJ, Koob GF, Volkow ND. Ketogenic diet reduces alcohol withdrawal symptoms in humans and alcohol intake in rodents. Sci Adv. 2021;7(15).

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Thursday, June 15, 2023