Lorenzo Leggio, M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc.
Joint NIAAA-NIDA Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology
Building 10, Room 1-5429
10 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892
Dr. Leggio's CPN laboratory conducts clinical and translational inpatient and outpatient studies to identify possible novel medications for addiction. His group uses a combination of state-of-the-art, innovative bio behavioral and pharmacological procedures performed under well-controlled human laboratory conditions. Imaging brain techniques, such as fMRI and PET, are also employed. Dr. Leggio and his team are particularly interested in the role of the gut-liver-brain axis in alcohol- and drug-seeking behaviors. Specifically, the CPN laboratory is currently investigating the potential role of feeding-related pathways, such as ghrelin, leptin, oxytocin and GLP-1, as possible new neuropharmacological targets for the treatment of alcohol and substance use disorders. Other neuroendocrine pathways are also under investigation, such as the aldosterone / mineralocorticoid receptor pathway. The CPN laboratory has recently expanded its research looking at the role of the gut microbiota in heavy drinkers with a special emphasis on the relationships between alcohol-related seeking behaviors and the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Future research includes work on the effects of bariatric surgery on alcohol-related seeking behaviors. Both preclinical and human approaches are under development to shed light on the possible role of these pathways in alcohol and substance use disorders.
Dr. Lorenzo Leggio serves as the Chief of the Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology, a joint NIAAA and NIDA laboratory. Dr. Leggio received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the Catholic University of Rome and ‘Agostino Gemelli’ hospital, where he also completed residency and received Board Certification in Internal Medicine. He also received a Masters in ‘Alcohol-related diseases and problems’ from the University of Florence. He was a visiting research associate, then postdoctoral research associate in Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University, Providence, RI. In 2010, Dr. Leggio joined the faculty of the Brown University Medical School as Assistant Professor and Core Faculty at the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (CAAS). Dr. Leggio’s clinical research has been primarily focused on the treatment of alcohol and substance use disorders, with a special emphasis on the role of feeding-related as well as GABAergic pathways; and on the medical consequences of alcohol use disorder, with a special emphasis on alcoholic liver disease. As a Principal Investigator at Brown University, Dr. Leggio received extramural research funding from NIAAA and NIDA, as well as from the European Foundation for Alcohol Research, Brown University CAAS, ABMRF/The Foundation for Alcohol Research, and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (formerly NARSAD). In 2012, Dr. Leggio joined the NIAAA and NIDA Intramural Research Programs (IRPs) as a joint Tenure-Track Clinical Investigator and Section Chief. He was awarded NIH tenure through the Central Tenure Committee and promoted to Senior Investigator in 2018 – two years early before his tenure-track clinical appointment was completed. Dr. Leggio serves as a NIH Senior Attending Medical Staff, the Associate Director for Clinical Research for the NIDA IRP Medication Development Program and as a Faculty Member of the NIH Center on Compulsive Behaviors. Additionally, he is a Professor (Adjunct) at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University. Dr. Leggio’s lab has pioneered clinical research on the role of neuroendocrine signaling in alcohol- and drug-seeking behaviors via human laboratory studies. He has authored or co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has served as a regular reviewer for many journals, reviewer for NIH study sections and other U.S. and international funding agencies and member of an FDA Advisory Board. He currently serves on the editorial board of several addiction-related journals and is a member of the Advisory Council of the Peter G. Dodge Foundation. Dr. Leggio has served as Chair (Medical/Clinical) of the 2016 Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) Program Committee, is a member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) and is also Founder and Chair of the Psychoneuroendocrinology Scientific Interest Group within the NIH IRP. Among other awards, he received the 2008 European Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism (ESBRA) Nordmann Award, the 2015 NIAAA Clinical Service Award, the 2016 NIAAA Mentoring Award, the 2016 RSA Early Career Investigator Award and the 2018 NIAAA Scientific Achievement Award. In 2018, Dr. Leggio was presented with the ACNP Eva King Killam Award on the basis of outstanding translational research contributions to neuropsychopharmacology.
Lee MR, Tapocik JD, Ghareeb M, Schwandt ML, Dias AA, Le AN, Cobbina E, Farinelli LA, Bouhlal S, Farokhnia M, Heilig M, Akhlaghi F, Leggio L. The novel ghrelin receptor inverse agonist PF-5190457 administered with alcohol: preclinical safety experiments and a phase 1b human laboratory study. Mol Psychiatry. 2018.
Agabio R, Sinclair JM, Addolorato G, Aubin HJ, Beraha EM, Caputo F, Chick JD, de La Selle P, Franchitto N, Garbutt JC, Haber PS, Heydtmann M, Jaury P, Lingford-Hughes AR, Morley KC, Müller CA, Owens L, Pastor A, Paterson LM, Pélissier F, Rolland B, Stafford A, Thompson A, van den Brink W, de Beaurepaire R, Leggio L. Baclofen for the treatment of alcohol use disorder: the Cagliari Statement. Lancet Psychiatry. 2018;5(12):957-960.
Farokhnia M, Grodin EN, Lee MR, Oot EN, Blackburn AN, Stangl BL, Schwandt ML, Farinelli LA, Momenan R, Ramchandani VA, Leggio L. Exogenous ghrelin administration increases alcohol self-administration and modulates brain functional activity in heavy-drinking alcohol-dependent individuals. Mol Psychiatry. 2018;23(10):2029-2038.
Aoun EG, Jimenez VA, Vendruscolo LF, Walter NAR, Barbier E, Ferrulli A, Haass-Koffler CL, Darakjian P, Lee MR, Addolorato G, Heilig M, Hitzemann R, Koob GF, Grant KA, Leggio L. A relationship between the aldosterone-mineralocorticoid receptor pathway and alcohol drinking: preliminary translational findings across rats, monkeys and humans. Mol Psychiatry. 2018;23(6):1466-1473.
Leggio L, Zywiak WH, Fricchione SR, Edwards SM, de la Monte SM, Swift RM, Kenna GA. Intravenous ghrelin administration increases alcohol craving in alcohol-dependent heavy drinkers: a preliminary investigation. Biol Psychiatry. 2014;76(9):734-41.
Related Scientific Focus Areas
This page was last updated on January 17th, 2019