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National Institute on Drug Abuse -  NIDA NOTES
Bulletin Board
Volume 16, Number 2 (May, 2001)

New members and NIDA officials at the February National Advisory Council meeting

New members and NIDA officials at the February National Advisory Council meeting, left to right: Dr. Jose Szapocznik, Dr. Kenneth Hoffman (Ex Officio Member, U.S. Army), NIDA Deputy Director Richard Millstein, NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Dr. Robert C. Malenka, and Dr. Scott A. Reines.

Advisory Council Welcomes New Members

NIDA's National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse meets three times yearly to evaluate grant applications, review recent research findings, and provide guidance for NIDA programs and policy. Council members, appointed for 3-year terms, are selected from academic research centers and public and private institutions committed to increasing scientific understanding of drug abuse and to developing and disseminating science-based programs for drug abuse prevention and treatment.

In February, at the 77th meeting of the Advisory Council, three new members began their terms as NIDA advisors:

  • Dr. Robert C. Malenka, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California. Dr. Malenka also directs the Nancy Friend Pritzker Laboratory in Stanford's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. His laboratory conducts cutting-edge research on the molecular mechanisms of neural communication and on the cellular actions of drugs of abuse.

  • Dr. Scott A. Reines, Vice President of Clinical Research in Neuroscience, Ophthalmology, and Gastroenterology at Merck Research Laboratories in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. Dr. Reines has held several positions in industry and academia, in his many subspecialties of pharmacology, neurochemistry, evaluation of new clinical drug candidates, clinical research methodology, and treatment of addiction.

  • Dr. Jose Szapocznik, Director of the Center for Family Studies and Director of the Spanish Family Guidance Center at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Dr. Szapocznik's research focuses on family therapy and family-based interventions, adolescent behavior, and drug abuse and delinquency, particularly in minority communities.


New NIDA-Funded Research Clarifies How Ritalin Works

NIDA-funded researchers have cast light on how methylphenidate (Ritalin), the most frequently prescribed medication for treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), works in the brain. The researchers assessed how commonly prescribed oral doses of the medication affect dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical involved with motivation and reward, and dopamine imbalances appear to be closely related to ADHD symptoms.

Using a brain imaging technique, positron emission tomography, the research team, led by Dr. Nora Volkow at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, and at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, found that brain levels of dopamine rose quickly in the study's 11 healthy, adult males with the administration of oral methylphenidate.

Because they increase a sense of motivation and purpose, Dr. Volkow speculates that increasing levels of dopamine in people with ADHD may improve attention and decrease distractability, the most common symptoms of the disorder.

A better understanding of how Ritalin affects dopamine may lead to a better understanding of the biology of ADHD, which, in turn, might help doctors appropriately diagnose and treat the disorder and eventually provide practitioners with a clearer framework for prescribing the medication. The study appeared in the January 12 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

NIDA NOTES - Volume 16, Number 2

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