Volume 12, Number 2
NIDA Sponsors Special Sessions At Society
for Neuroscience Meeting
By Michael D. Mueller, NIDA NOTES Staff Writer
The common ground shared by neuroscience and drug abuse research was
highlighted at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience last fall
in Washington, D.C., with NIDA sponsoring or cosponsoring four major events.
"Advances in the neurosciences have revolutionized our understanding
of drug abuse and addiction. Similarly, advances in drug abuse research
have revolutionized our understanding of brain function," NIDA Director
Dr. Alan I. Leshner said at the meeting.
The four events-two day-long symposiums on cognitive neuroscience and
nonhuman primate research and two evening sessions featuring poster presentations
by NIDA-funded minority scientists and scientists early in their careers-clearly
illustrated the linkages between the two research communities.
||Nobel laureate Dr. David Hubel, professor of neurobiology at
Harvard Medical School in Boston, addressed a symposium on nonhuman primate
research cosponsored by NIDA at the Society for Neuroscience meeting.|
The symposium on cognitive neuroscience was designed to build a bridge
between addiction scientists and cognitive neuroscientists, Dr. Stephen
R. Zukin, director of NIDA's Division of Clinical and Services Research,
told participants. There has been an explosion of knowledge in both fields
in recent years, but more exchange of information is needed between the
two fields, he said.
"Cognitive function and drug abuse is an area about which we know
very little," Dr. Leshner said at the symposium. "We know almost
nothing about the cognitive effects of long-term drug use and very little
about the cognitive factors that may make a person vulnerable to drug addiction,"
NIDA scientists at the symposium reviewed some of NIDA's most promising
research in cognitive neuroscience. Dr. Nora Volkow of the Brookhaven National
Laboratory in Upton, New York, provided an overview of drug actions in the
brains of addicts. Dr. Edythe London of NIDA's Division of Intramural Research
discussed her recent studies investigating the activation of memory-associated
brain circuits during cocaine craving. Dr. Bruce Rosen of Massachusetts
General Hospital in Charlestown reported on work he is conducting that is
revealing the interactive nature of brain activities that occur in response
to cocaine administration.
Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire,
who concluded the symposium, stressed the importance of cognitive processes
in drug addiction. He pointed out that new medications designed to treat
drug abuse will address only part of the drug abuse problem. "A new
medication might 'fix' the metabolic machinery, but there will still be
many drug-related memories and beliefs," Dr. Gazzaniga said.
Unique Contributions of Nonhuman Primate Research to Neuroscience, a
symposium cosponsored by NIDA and eight other institutes of the National
Institutes of Health, was designed to provide a forum to recognize the critical
role of nonhuman primate research in all areas of biomedical research, according
to Dr. Cathrine Sasek of NIDA's Office of Science Policy and Communications,
who served on the symposium's planning committee.
"The two greatest challenges in science are to understand the universe
and to understand the human brain," Nobel laureate Dr. David Hubel,
professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told symposium
participants. Because nonhuman primates are so much like humans, they are
unique among laboratory animals in what they can tell us about the human
brain and nervous system, he said.
Dr. Linda Chang of Harbor-UCLA Research and Educational
nstitute, right, discusses her poster on "Neuroimaging of
Cocaine Users with HIV" with NIDA's Dr. Rita Liu during
poster presentations at the Society for Neuroscience meeting.
Applications of nonhuman primate models have led to major advances in
our understanding of the basic neurobehavioral mechanisms of abused drugs,
said NIDA grantee Dr. William Woolverton, a pharmacologist at the University
of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Nonhuman primate research has
become essential in the development of pharmacological and behavioral approaches
to treating drug abuse and in predicting the abuse liability of novel drugs,
During the session that highlighted neuroscience findings by minorities,
17 minority researchers presented posters on their NIDA-funded research.
More than twice the number of applicants applied than could be accommodated
for the session, Dr. Leshner said. "We are extremely pleased with the
increase in the number of minority researchers coming into drug abuse research,"
Dr. Huda Akil, professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at the University
of Michigan at Ann Arbor, opened the forum by speaking about the shared
subculture of science. "Because brain biology and research lie somewhere
in the middle of the continuum between the very physical sciences and the
very integrative social sciences, we can use as many points of view, as
many ways to ask a question, as many ways to interpret an answer, as are
available," said Dr. Akil.
Twenty-one NIDA-funded researchers presented posters at a "NIDA:
The Next Generation" forum. Many of them were recipients of NIDA's
K01 or K08 mentored awards, which are designed to bring scientists into
addiction research early in their careers.
The guest speaker at the forum was Dr. Floyd Bloom, past president of
the Society for Neuroscience and editor of Science, who talked about the
climate in which drug abuse research is being conducted today. He noted
that, while the 6.9 percent increase in funding for NIDA's drug abuse research
reflected the recognition of Congress and the President that drug dependence
is an important health and social problem, nevertheless that increase still
is not enough to allow drug abuse researchers to work at their maximum capabilities.
From NIDA NOTES, March/April 1997
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