Veronica Alicia Alvarez, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience; Section on Neuronal Structure


5625 Fishers Lane
Room TS-24, MSC 9411
Bethesda, MD 20892


Research Topics

Research in the Alvarez laboratory is focused on understanding the effects of drugs of abuse on synapses and neuronal connectivity with the purpose of revealing the cellular mechanisms that control reward-motivated behaviors and compulsive drug seeking. The studies focus on cocaine and ethanol, two prominent drugs of abuse in the US. Researchers in the laboratory of Dr. Alvarez apply multiple techniques ranging from approaches at the cellular and synaptic level to behavioral analysis and in vivo manipulations in wild-type and genetically-engineered mouse models.


Dr. Alvarez earned a Ph.D. degree in Neuroscience in 1997 from University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. She trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. John Williams at the Vollum Institute, OHSU from 1998 to 2001 studying the firing properties of locus coerulues neurons and its modulation by opioids. She then trained with Dr. Bernardo Sabatini at Harvard Medical School from 2001-2007 where she studied mechanisms of functional and morphological plasticity at glutamatergic synapses using electrophysiology and two-photon imaging. In 2008, she established an independent research program at NIAAA where she is investigator and acting chief of the Section on Neuronal Structure.

Selected Publications

  1. Bocarsly ME, da Silva E Silva D, Kolb V, Luderman KD, Shashikiran S, Rubinstein M, Sibley DR, Dobbs LK, Alvarez VA. A Mechanism Linking Two Known Vulnerability Factors for Alcohol Abuse: Heightened Alcohol Stimulation and Low Striatal Dopamine D2 Receptors. Cell Rep. 2019;29(5):1147-1163.e5.
  2. Adrover MF, Shin JH, Quiroz C, Ferré S, Lemos JC, Alvarez VA. Prefrontal Cortex-Driven Dopamine Signals in the Striatum Show Unique Spatial and Pharmacological Properties. J Neurosci. 2020;40(39):7510-7522.
  3. Dobbs LK, Kaplan AR, Bock R, Phamluong K, Shin JH, Bocarsly ME, Eberhart L, Ron D, Alvarez VA. D1 receptor hypersensitivity in mice with low striatal D2 receptors facilitates select cocaine behaviors. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019;44(4):805-816.
  4. Al-Hasani R, Gowrishankar R, Schmitz GP, Pedersen CE, Marcus DJ, Shirley SE, Hobbs TE, Elerding AJ, Renaud SJ, Jing M, Li Y, Alvarez VA, Lemos JC, Bruchas MR. Ventral tegmental area GABAergic inhibition of cholinergic interneurons in the ventral nucleus accumbens shell promotes reward reinforcement. Nat Neurosci. 2021;24(10):1414-1428.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 27, 2022