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Developmental Effects of Nicotine on Cognition and Reward Processing
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Basic Science Network

"Developmental Effects of Nicotine on Cognition and Reward Processing”

Presenters: Imad Damaj, Frances Leslie, Thomas Gould and Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin
Moderator: Valeria Lallai



Dr. M. Imad Damaj is Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Dr. Damaj earned his Ph.D. in Pharmacology in 1991 from the University of Paris XI, France and completed his post-doctoral training with Dr. Billy R. Martin at VCU.  The major emphasis of Dr. Damaj’s research is directed toward understanding the role of neuronal nicotinic in CNS function and behavior (mainly drug abuse and pain) using newly developed nicotinic ligands and various mouse genetic approaches. The neuronal molecular and behavioral mechanisms involved in nicotine reward and withdrawal are of particular emphasis.   Finally, Dr. Damaj’s lab has a particular interest in probing the role of the neuronal nicotinic receptors play in the transmission of acute and chronic neuropathic pain. Currently, his work focuses also on the impact of nicotine exposure in adolescence on drug dependence.

Dr. Thomas J. Gould is a Professor and the head of the Biobehavioral Health Department at Penn State University. Dr. Gould received his doctoral degree in Psychology and neural science from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and his bachelor’s degree in psychology from University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Gould is currently interested in the neurobiology of learning and memory with a specific focus on identifying the cellular and molecular events that underlie the effects of nicotine and ethanol on learning and memory. To that end, the Dr. Gould’s lab uses neurobiological, behavioral, pharmacological, genetic, and molecular techniques to investigate the effects of drugs of abuse on learning, with a specific emphasis on how those effects change as drug administration transitions from acute to chronic drug use, and then to withdrawal. Current projects in the lab include an examination of the effects of nicotine on hippocampus functioning and hippocampus-dependent learning. This research also examines genetic factors that may contribute to the effects of nicotine on cognitive processes.

Frances Leslie, Ph.D., Is a Professor of Pharmacology and Dean of the Graduate Division at the University of California, Irvine. She received her doctoral degree from Aberdeen University in Scotland in 1977 where she played a role in landmark studies on the identification and mechanism of action of enkephalin, the first endorphin to be discovered. Dr. Leslie is a neuropharmacologist who is primarily interested in the effects of drugs of abuse, particularly nicotine, on developing brain. Her research team uses an integrative range of experimental approaches, from molecular biology to animal behavior, to determine whether abused drugs have unique effects at various stages of brain development. Although all stages of brain development are studied, two periods are of particular interest: the prenatal period and adolescence.

Dr. Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin is a Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Krishnan-Sarin received her PhD from Purdue University in 1992. Her research is focused on developing a bio-behavioral understanding of substance use behaviors in adult and adolescent substance users, with the goal of developing optimal prevention and cessation interventions. In the area of adolescent tobacco use, she has conducted qualitative research including focus groups and surveys to understand patterns and perceptions of use of tobacco products, clinical trials to develop and test the use of novel behavioral and pharmacological cessation and prevention interventions, and experimental evaluations of behavioral and neural predictors of use and cessation behaviors. Because of her expertise in youth tobacco use behaviors, she has contributed to the Surgeon General’s report on “Preventing Tobacco Use among Young People” and also served as a member of the FDA’s Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee. Dr. Krishnan-Sarin is the Co-PI on the Yale Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science which is using a multidisciplinary approach to understand the role of flavors in tobacco and nicotine addiction.

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