Addiction and the Brain: Are We Hard-Wired to Abuse Drugs?

Brookhaven National Laboratory Hosts Expert Panel at AAAS News Briefing and Symposium

For release: Monday, February 5, 2007; stories embargoed until February 15, 2007, 1 p.m. Pacific Time.

EVENT:At the 2007 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a panel of world-renowned neuroscientists will present recent advances in brain-imaging that have revolutionized our understanding of addiction as a chronic disease. The addiction symposium is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, and will be preceded by a AAAS news briefing highlighting key speakers and findings.


News Briefing - Thursday, February 15, 2007, 1-2 p.m. Pacific Time, AAAS Briefing Room, Nikko Ballroom III, 3rd floor Hotel Nikko, San Francisco, CA

Symposium - Friday, February 16, 2007, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time, Hilton San Francisco, Ballroom Level, Continental Ballroom 6. This symposium will be webcast live on Friday. 8:15 a.m. Pacific Time (11:15 a.m. Eastern).

NOTE: Post-embargo one-on-one phone interviews available with prior scheduling. Call Karen McNulty Walsh at (631) 344-8350, Peter Genzer at (631) 344-3174, or Dennis Tartaglia or Kelly Peterson at (212) 481-7000.

DETAILS: Drug abuse is one of the world's most challenging public health problems, causing great human suffering and taking a tremendous societal toll with a cost of $484 billion per year in the United States alone. Fortunately, recent scientific advances have revolutionized our understanding of addiction as a chronic disease, with dramatic implications for improving prevention and treatment. Some of the greatest advances have come from cross-disciplinary teams using sophisticated brain-imaging technologies to reveal the mechanisms underlying the reinforcing, addictive, and toxic properties of drugs. Leaders in this field will present new findings on the neurological mechanisms and consequences of addiction, as well as new treatment strategies.

SPEAKERS: The news briefing on February 15 will feature brief presentations followed by a Q&A session with:

  • Nora Volkow, M.D., Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Dopamine's Role in Drug Craving," with new findings on the connection between addiction and obesity
  • Edythe D. London, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology, University of California, Los Angeles, "Methamphetamine and the Brain: A Problem of Inhibitory Control," with new findings on potential methamphetamine addiction treatments
  • Stephen Dewey, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Brookhaven National Laboratory, "Imaging the Causes and Consequences of Inhalant Abuse," with new findings on differences among solvents' addictive liabilities as well as potential treatments
  • Charles O'Brien, M.D., Ph.D., Director, Department of Psychiatry VA Medical Center/University of Pennsylvania, "Promising Approaches in the Treatment of Drug Addiction," with an emphasis on alcohol and heroin addiction

The above speakers will expand on their remarks at the February 16 symposium, which will be moderated by Fritz Henn, M.D., Ph.D., Brookhaven Lab's Associate Laboratory Director for Life Sciences. The symposium will feature additional presentations by:

  • Joanna Fowler, Ph.D., Director, Center for Translational Neuroimaging, Brookhaven National Laboratory, "Monoamine Oxidase in Smoking: Role in Addiction and Health," with new approaches to smoking cessation
  • Gene-Jack Wang, M.D., Chair, Medical Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, "The Addiction-Obesity Connection," with new data on the ability to control cravings
  • Helene Benveniste, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Stony Brook University, and Scientist, Brookhaven National Laboratory, "Maternal-Fetal Drug Transfer: Implications for Drug Abuse and Therapeutics," with the latest data on differences in maternal and fetal responses to drugs

At the symposium, a discussion and Q&A session on the scientific, societal, and public policy implications of this research will be led by:

  • Yasmin Hurd, Ph.D., Departments of Psychiatry and Pharmacology & Biological Sciences, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • Barry McCaffrey, Retired U.S. Army General, Former Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

Background materials will be available to journalists registered with EurekAlert! in the AAAS electronic newsroom ( on February 12, 2006. Biographical sketches and speaker abstracts are also available at:

Information presented at the news briefing and symposium is embargoed until 1 p.m. Pacific Time on February 15, 2007.

2007-10589  |  INT/EXT  |  Newsroom