February 24, 2016
NIDA International Program Associate Director Dale Weiss, right, presents a certificate to the newest NIDA-Inserm Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Celine Nicolas, University of PoitiersNIDA International Program Associate Director Dale Weiss, right, presents a certificate to the newest NIDA-Inserm Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Celine Nicolas, University of Poitiers.

Officials and grantees from NIDA, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm) met in Paris to review research advances, set priorities for future binational collaboration on addiction research, and introduce the 2015 NIDA–Inserm Postdoctoral Drug Abuse Research Fellows. NIDA grantees Paul Kenny, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, and Terry Jernigan, University of California, San Diego, delivered keynote addresses summarizing research advances. NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, NIAAA Director George Koob, and Inserm Chairman Yves Lévy presented their visions and perspectives on the future of addiction research. Dr. Volkow chaired a roundtable discussion on the biomarkers of addiction that included a presentation by NIDA grantee Laura Bierut, Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Koob chaired a roundtable discussion on cellular and molecular mechanisms of addiction that included presentations by NIDA grantees Marina Wolf, University of Chicago, and Peter Kalivas, Medical University of South Carolina. NIDA Division of Neuroscience and Behavior Director Joni Rutter served as rapporteur for that session. NIDA International Program Director Steven W. Gust Gust, NIAAA International Program Officer Peggy Murray, and Inserm Department of Evaluation and Monitoring Programs Director Anne Jouvenceau discussed funding opportunities. The National Institutes of Health delegation also met with Inserm researchers at the University of Bordeaux, where they discussed possible binational collaboration on the French Internet-based Students HeAlth Research Enterprise (i-SHARE), a 10-year longitudinal study of 30,000 university students that will track prevalence and consequences of diseases and their risk factors in young adults; develop intervention trials; test strategies for sampling, prevention, and health coverage; and support multidisciplinary biomedical research about the physiopathological or psychopathological mechanisms of migraine, mental health, infections, risk behaviors, addiction, and accidents. The meetings were held November 9–13, 2015, at Inserm facilities in Paris and Bordeaux.

Dale Weiss, NIDA International Program associate director, and Mireille Guyader, Inserm, introduced the new NIDA–Inserm Postdoctoral Drug Abuse Research Fellows. The fellowships provide 6 to 12 months of rigorous postdoctoral research training in the United States (for French applicants) or France (for U.S. applicants), and are renewable once. The fellows are:

  • Vivien Zell, Ph.D., University of Strasbourg. A 2014–2015 NIDA–Inserm Fellow, Dr. Zell will spend a second year investigating how glutamate-releasing neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) contribute to brain function at the molecular, physiological, and behavioral levels and alter the reinforcement mechanisms that contribute to addiction. Dr. Zell observed that VTA glutamate terminals co-release the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the ventral pallidum and the lateral habenula (LHb), which has implications for brain function that may alter reward-related behavioral responses in specific contexts. He will conduct a new set of experiments using a pharmacosynthetic technique to test the function of glutamate/GABA co-release from VTA neurons projecting to the LHb. He also will study the physiological consequences of co-packaging of dopamine and glutamate in the same single presynaptic vesicles using a novel mutation that allows for selective overexpression of the vesicular glutamate transporter in dopamine neurons. Dr. Zell’s mentor is Thomas Hnasko, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego.
  • Celine Nicolas, Ph.D., University of Poitiers. Dr. Nicolas will combine behavioral research with optogenetic and chemogenetic techniques to better understand the causal relationship between brain circuits and drug-seeking behavior. She will investigate the role of central amygdala neurons projecting to the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in response to stressful events in rats that have self-administered cocaine. These studies may shed light on the neural mechanisms involved in drug craving and relapse. Dr. Nicolas’s mentor is NIDA Intramural Research Program Senior Investigator Satoshi Ikemoto, Ph.D.