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


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 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 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. Dr. Leggio and his team are particularly interested in the role of the gut-liver-brain axis in alcohol-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 use disorder. We have recently expanded our research looking at the role of the gut microbiome in heavy drinkers with a special emphasis on the relationships between alcohol-related seeking behaviors and the microbiome-gut-brain axis. Planned research includes work on the effects of bariatric surgery on alcohol-related seeking behaviors. Both preclinical and human approaches are under development in order to shed light on the possible role of these pathways in alcohol use disorder.

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), the Office of Behavioral & Social Sciences Research (OBSSR; NIH Bench-to-Bedside Award; oxytocin project) and the Peter G. Dodge Foundation (PGDF; microbiome-gut-brain project). Finally, in collaboration with the University of Rhode Island (URI), the CPN laboratory is conducting an NIH-Academia-Industry collaborative project on the role of ghrelin receptor antagonism in alcoholism.

Selected Publications:
  1. C.L. Haass-Koffler, E. Aoun, R.M. Swift, S. de la Monte, G.A. Kenna, L. Leggio. Leptin Levels are Reduced by Intravenous Ghrelin Administration and Correlated with Cue-Induced Alcohol Craving. Transl Psychiatry 2015;5:e646

  2. M.L. Lee, L. Leggio. Management of Alcohol Use Disorder in Patients Requiring Liver Transplant. Am J Psychiatry 2015;172(12):1182-9

  3. G.A. Kenna, C.L. Haass-Koffler, W.H. Zywiak, S.M. Edwards, M.B. Brickley, R.M. Swift, L. Leggio. Role of the α(1) blocker doxazosin in alcoholism: a proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial. Addict Biol. 2016;21(4):904-14

  4. P. Suchankova, J. Yan, M.L. Schwandt, B.L. Stangl, E.C. Caparelli, R. Momenan, E. Jerlhag, J.A. Engel, C.A. Hodgkinson, M. Egli, M.F. Lopez, H.C. Becker, D. Goldman, M. Heilig, V.A. Ramchandani, L. Leggio. The glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor as a potential treatment target in alcohol use disorder: evidence from human genetic association studies and a mouse model of alcohol dependence. Transl Psychiatry. 2015;5:e583

  5. 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). 2015;232(1):233-43.

  6. M. Ghareeb, L. Leggio, A. El-Kattan, F. Akhlaghi. Development and validation of an UPLC-MS/MS assay for quantitative analysis of the ghrelin receptor inverse agonist PF-5190457 in human or rat plasma and rat brain. Anal Bioanal Chem 2015 ;407(19):5603-13

  7. 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;76(9): 734-41

  8. 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;38(6):1567-74.

  9. 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.

  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, 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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The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the principal biomedical and behavioral research agency of the United States Government. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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