Lorenzo Leggio, M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc. - Principal Investigators - The Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

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Amy Hauck Newman, Ph.D., Senior Investigator


251 Bayview Blvd,
Room 01A840
Baltimore, MD 21224

NIDA Phone: (443) 740-2293

NIAAA Phone: (301) 435-9398

Lorenzo Leggio, M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc.

Chief, Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology Section on-site page link

Postdoctoral training , Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

Internal Medicine – Residency training, Department of Internal Medicine, A. Gemelli Hospital, Catholic University of Rome

Ph.D. - Physiopathology of Nutrition and Metabolism, Catholic University of Rome

M.Sc. – Alcohol Addiction, University of Florence

M.D.  - Medical School, Catholic University of Rome


Dr. Leggio’s Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology (CPN) conducts translational and clinical outpatient and inpatient studies in order to identify possible novel medications for addiction. This group uses a combination of state-of-the-art and novel bio behavioral and pharmacological procedures performed under well-controlled human laboratory conditions. Imaging brain techniques, such as fMRI and PET, are also employed. At present, Dr. Leggio and his team are conducting a human laboratory study with anxious alcoholic individuals in order to better understand the bio behavioral mechanisms by which the GABA-B agonist baclofen may affect alcohol-seeking behaviors. Additionally, Dr. Leggio and his team are particularly interested in the role of the gut-liver-brain axis in alcohol-seeking behaviors. Specifically, the CPN group is currently investigating the potential role of feeding-related pathways, such as ghrelin, oxytocin and GLP-1, as possible new neuropharmacological targets for alcoholism treatment. Both preclinical and human approaches are in progress or under development in order to shed light on the possible role of these pathways in alcoholism. CPN is jointly funded by the NIAAA Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research and the NIDA Intramural Research Program. Additional research support is provided by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF; NARSAD Young Investigator Award – baclofen project) and the Office of Behavioral & Social Sciences Research (OBSSR; NIH Bench-to-Bedside Award; oxytocin project). Finally, in collaboration with the University of Rhode Island (URI), the CPN group is conducting an NIH-Academia-Industry collaborative project on the role of ghrelin receptor antagonism in alcoholism.

Selected Publications:
  1. L. Leggio, W.H. Zywiak, S.R. Fricchione, S.M. Edwards, S.M. de la Monte, R.M. Swift, G.A. Kenna. Intravenous Ghrelin Administration Increases Alcohol Craving in Alcohol-Dependent Heavy Drinkers: A Preliminary Investigation. Biol Psychiatry 2014 (in press) PMID: 24775991.

  2. L. Leggio, W.H. Zywiak, S.M. Edwards, J.W. Tidey, R.M. Swift, G.A. Kenna. A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study of baclofen effects in alcoholic smokers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2014 (in press) PMID: 24973894

  3. G.A. Kenna, W.H. Zywiak, R.M. Swift, J.E. McGeary, J.S. Clifford, J.R. Shoaff, C. Vuittonet, S. Fricchione, M. Brickley, K. Beaucage, C.L. Haass-Koffler, L. Leggio. Ondansetron Reduces Naturalistic Drinking in Nontreatment-Seeking Alcohol-Dependent Individuals with the LL 5'-HTTLPR Genotype: A Laboratory Study. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014 (in press) PMID: 24773166.

  4. L. Leggio, M.L. Schwandt, E.N. Oot, A.A. Dias, V.A. Ramchandani. Fasting-induced increase in plasma ghrelin is blunted by intravenous alcohol administration: a within-subject placebo-controlled study. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013;38(12):3085-91.

  5. L. Leggio, W.H. Zywiak, J.E. McGeary, S. Edwards, S.R. Fricchione, J.R. Shoaff, G. Addolorato, R.M. Swift and G. A. Kenna. A human laboratory pilot study with baclofen in alcoholic individuals. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior 2013;103(4):784-91.

  6. L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, S. Cardone, A. Nesci, A. Miceli, N. Malandrino, E. Capristo, B. Canestrelli, P. Monteleone, G.A. Kenna, R.M. Swift and G. Addolorato. Ghrelin system in alcohol-dependent subjects: role of plasma ghrelin levels in alcohol drinking and craving. Addiction Biology 2012;17(2):452-64.

  7. L. Leggio, L.A. Ray, G.A. Kenna and R.M. Swift. Blood glucose level, alcohol heavy drinking, and alcohol craving during treatment for alcohol dependence: results from the Combined Pharmacotherapies and Behavioral Interventions for Alcohol Dependence (COMBINE) Study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2009;33(9):1539-44.

  8. L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, S. Cardone, N. Malandrino, A. Mirijello, C. D'Angelo, L. Vonghia, A. Miceli, E. Capristo, G.A. Kenna, G. Gasbarrini, R.M. Swift and G. Addolorato. Relationship between the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis and alcohol craving in alcohol-dependent patients: a longitudinal study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2008;32(12):2047-53.

  9. L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, N. Malandrino, A. Miceli, E. Capristo, G. Gasbarrini and G. Addolorato. Insulin but not insulin growth factor-1 correlates with craving in currently drinking alcohol-dependent patients. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2008;32(3):450-8.

  10. G. Addolorato, L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, S. Cardone, L. Vonghia, A. Mirijello, L. Abenavoli, C. D'Angelo, F. Caputo, A. Zambon, P.S. Haber and G. Gasbarrini. Effectiveness and safety of baclofen for maintenance of alcohol abstinence in alcohol-dependent patients with liver cirrhosis: randomised, double-blind controlled study. Lancet. 2007;370(9603):1915-22.

About Dr. Leggio's...

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