Mailed 3/26/97

Contact: Diane Greenberg,
or Mona S. Rowe




Upton, NY - The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory has acquired a new medical imaging instrument, which will be the centerpiece of its research into the biochemical roots of drug abuse and addiction.

The White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy have joined to launch a new center for drug abuse research at Brookhaven.

At the heart of the new center is a $1.7 million imaging device, a state-of-the-art positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, manufactured by Siemens Medical Systems, Inc., an Illinois-based company. The new instrument is more sensitive than Brookhaven's nine-year-old PET scanner, and together, the two instruments will be used to begin new studies to understand addiction and to use this information to develop drug addiction treatments. The additional PET scanner will also facilitate ongoing studies into the biochemical natures of obesity and of aging.

PET is a technology that measures metabolism in the brain, thereby providing images that reflect the functioning of a subject's brain. To visually document changes in the brain, a PET research subject is injected with a short-lived radioactive isotope that is attached to one of a number of compounds that bind to specific brain sites. The amount of radiotracer is similar to that administered in nuclear medicine procedures. The radiotracer emits energy that is recorded by detectors in the PET instrument, which signal the location and concentration to a computer. The computer translates these data into an image of brain activity as the brain actually functions.

Joanna Fowler, head of Brookhaven's PET program, said, "The new PET instrument will allow us to examine smaller brain structures with more accuracy. For example, we will be able to image the nucleus accumbens, the pleasure center of the brain, which is crucial for the study of addiction."

In 1987, Brookhaven Lab was the first research institution to use PET and other medical imaging techniques to investigate the brain mechanisms underlying drug addiction. BNL scientists were among the pioneer developers of PET technology and of the radiotracers tracked by PET.

The new PET scanner will also be used by the BNL Center for Imaging and Neuroscience, which includes high-field magnetic resonance imaging and single-photon emission computed tomography scanning facilities.

Using the new PET scanner, Dr. Fowler and Dr. Nora Volkow, head of Brookhaven Lab's nuclear medicine program and chair of its Medical Department, plan to pursue many research projects, including:

Volunteers who are interested in participating in any of these studies, including normal, healthy volunteers, as well as those with addictions, may call (516)344-2694. Payment for volunteers is $100 per day.

Brookhaven National Laboratory carries out basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. Brookhaven is operated by Associated Universities, Inc., a nonprofit research management organization, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.