#98-32

Contact: Diane Greenberg or Mona S. Rowe

Mailed 3/30/98

 

BROOKHAVEN TOWN HONORS BROOKHAVEN LAB SCIENTIST

Upton, NY - Dr. Nora Volkow, Chair of the Medical Department and Director of Nuclear Medicine at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, is one of 13 women who will be honored on Tuesday, March 31, for their accomplishments and contributions to Brookhaven Town. The women will be the guests of honor at the Town-sponsored Women's Recognition Night, as part of its observance of National Women's History Month. Dr. Volkow will be recognized for her excellence in medicine.

A leader in drug abuse research, Dr. Volkow uses an imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET) to view how addictive drugs, such as cocaine, affect the brain. In the 1980s, she discovered that the brains of heavy cocaine users frequently had regions where there is no blood flow, similar to stroke victims. Thus, Dr. Volkow is credited with being the first researcher to report that cocaine is toxic to the human brain.

Her recent research findings were reported in a Time magazine cover story on May 5, 1997. Dr. Volkow and her colleagues demonstrated for the first time in human subjects that cocaine causes euphoria by increasing dopamine, a chemical substance in the brain that is important in movement, motivation and reward. The researchers also found that cocaine users have a reduced glucose metabolism in the part of the brain known as the orbital frontal cortex, which is key to controlling and planning behavior.

"I am honored to receive this award from Brookhaven Town," said Dr. Volkow. "Addiction is a devastating problem, and my hope is that my research will continue to contribute to greater understanding of the mechanisms underlying it. Brookhaven Lab is home to a regional center of drug abuse research, and using the state-of-the-art facilities available to me, investigating how drugs affect the brain will continue to be one of my research priorities."

In related work, Dr. Volkow has also used PET in pioneering studies of the biochemical changes in the brain associated with alcoholism and aging.

After receiving her M.D. in 1980 from the National University of Mexico, Dr. Volkow completed her residency in psychiatry at New York University in 1984. During this period, she used Brookhaven Lab's PET facility to study schizophrenia and to develop a PET radiotracer to measure cell growth in brain tumors.

At the University of Texas Medical School from 1984-87, Dr. Volkow led a research program using PET to investigate the toxic effects of cocaine. In 1987, she joined Brookhaven Lab to continue this research.

She became Associate Chief of Staff in the Lab's Clinical Research Center in 1990 and was appointed Director of the Nuclear Medicine Program in 1994. Two years later, she was named Chair of the Laboratory's Medical Department.

Dr. Volkow also has been an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook since 1987, and, since 1994, she has been a lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University. She was recently appointed Associate Dean of the SUNY Stony Brook School of Medicine at Brookhaven Lab.

Brookhaven National Laboratory carries out basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. Brookhaven Science Associates, a partnership between the Research Foundation of the State University of New York on behalf of SUNY Stony Brook, and Battelle Memorial Institute, operates the Laboratory under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.

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NOTE TO LOCAL EDITORS: Dr. Nora Volkow is a resident of Shoreham, NY.