ContactBiomedical Research Center
251 Bayview Boulevard
Suite 200, Room 02A638
Baltimore, MD 21224
Fellow - General Internal Medicine - The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Resident - Internal Medicine - Yale University
MD - Medicine - Boston University School of Medicine
MSc - Tropical Public Health - Harvard School of Public Health
BA - Latin American Studies and Womens Studies - The Johns Hopkins University
The Office of the Clinical Director (OCD) coordinates, supports, and supervises the development, implementation and conduct of intramural clinical research activities. The OCD provides the infrastructure needed to promote top quality clinical research and to ensure research participant safety and confidentiality. This infrastructure includes a research participant recruitment and screening center, a 45-slot addiction treatment outpatient research clinic and multiple specialized study rooms (including smoking chambers, mock MRI scanner, and physiological monitoring). In addition, a digital medical record system on a secure network has been developed and allows for all research related data to be accessible from within the IRP.
The OCD provides clinical support personnel to complement research personnel in specific laboratory groups. The personnel include clinical research nurses, research associates, mid-level providers, research pharmacists, IRB administrators, and a quality assurance medical officer.
The clinical research portfolio at the NIDA IRP includes a wide variety of collaborative investigation that focus on:
- Efficacy and safety of new treatments for drug abuse.
- Factors that impact drug taking and relapse.
- Application of MRI-based structural and functional imaging to elucidate acute and chronic drug effects and their consequences on cognitive processes.
- Specific individual genetic polymorphisms and the group variance imaging endophenotypes to understand trait related predisposition and treatment outcome.
- Molecular genetic bases of individual differences in vulnerability to develop dependence on an addictive substance.
- Recruitment and characterization of subjects for genome wide association studies.
- Development of advanced functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging/spectroscopy techniques.
- Structural MRI techniques to assess tissue integrity related to brain dysfunction.
- Transcranial magnetic Stimulation (TMS) in the elucidation and treatment of addictive disorders.
- Mobile health applications for real-time in-the-field addiction treatment interventions.
We are investigating the molecules, cells and neuronal pathways central to the neurobiology of drug addiction. Towards this end, we apply anatomical, cell molecular, cell biological and electrophysiological experimental approaches. Our research focus on two issues: what is the brain circuitry through which addictive drugs have their habit-forming actions, and what are the neuroadaptations in this circuitry that accompany the transition from recreational to compulsive drug-taking?
Accumulating evidence indicate that the ventral tegmental area (VTA) plays a role in goal-directed behavior and in reward processing to natural rewards and to several drugs of abuse. Therefore, we are investigating the neuronal properties and synaptic connectivity of the VTA to gain a better understanding of the interactions of the VTA with other brain structures in the processing and integration of information underlying behaviors associated with the neurobiology of drugs of addiction. Two populations of VTA neurons, dopaminergic neurons and GABAergic neurons, have been extensively characterized. Unexpectedly our work has recently shown that glutamatergic neurons are also present in the VTA. We are currently exploring the neuronal connectivity of VTA glutamatergic neurons and their participation in animal behavior.
Clinical observations and results from animal models indicate that behaviors associated with intake of drugs of abuse are affected by stress. The neuronal pathways, neurons, and neurotransmitters that mediate interactions between stress and drugs of abuse are not well characterized. In this regard, work from our laboratory has provided evidence indicating synaptic connectivity between the reward and the stress systems at the level of the VTA.