Nora Volkow, M.D. Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse
In her lecture Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), will describe how drug use changes the basic way neurons in the brain communicate, either by imitating the brain’s neurotransmitters or by overstimulating the brain’s “reward circuit” to release an excess of neurotransmitters, primarily dopamine. She will also explain how long-term drug abuse can alter other chemical systems in the brain, disrupting cognitive functions such as judgment, decision-making, and memory and thereby reinforcing drug-seeking behaviors.
The NIDA is the world leader in research on the health consequences of drug abuse. Dr. Volkow became director of the institute in May 2003 after serving in several leadership positions at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and as a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and associate dean of the Medical School of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. As a research psychiatrist, she has used brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects of drugs and has studied the dopamine system’s affect on motivation, drive, and pleasure. Born in Mexico, she received her medical degree from the National University of Mexico and served her psychiatric residency at New York University. She is the recipient of numerous rewards, including membership in the Institute of Medicine in the National Academy of Sciences and the International Prize from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research for her pioneering work in brain imaging and addiction science.