UTHealth named NIH drug addiction research “Center of Excellence”
HOUSTON – (Oct. 7, 2010) – By delivering an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to drug abuse and addiction research, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) has been renewed as a “Center of Excellence” by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The designation comes with a five-year, $11 million grant that will be used to further studies led by researchers and clinicians in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, part of UTHealth.
Research at UTHealth’s Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction (CNRA) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort in behavioral laboratory, brain imaging and outpatient clinical trials, said F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., UTHealth professor of psychiatry and director of the CNRA.
“We are using novel medications, imaging methodologies and clinical trial designs that will provide a greater understanding of the behavioral neurobiology of cocaine dependence and translate this knowledge into effective pharmacotherapies for the disorder,” Moeller said.
Major accomplishments of the NIDA-funded research at the CNRA over the last 10 years have included:
- Research showing that drug addiction is a complex behavioral disorder, which includes impulsivity and impaired decision making as key elements of the disorder. Prior to research by UTHealth and others, addiction was seen as being only related to rewarding effects of the drugs, not taking into account cognitive aspects of the addicted individual.
- Research showing that several medications can be helpful in reducing cocaine use, especially when combined with effective cognitive-behavioral (talk) therapies.
- Research combining brain imaging with treatment showing that brain function in drug-addicted individuals differs from non-drug-addicted individuals and that these differences are related to behavioral problems that addicted individuals have, such as impulsivity, and that they are associated with treatment response.
- Research in humans and rodents showing that chronic cocaine produces changes in white matter both on imaging and in brain pathology.
The CNRA is a multidisciplinary team that includes faculty from throughout UTHealth: from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Moeller; Professor Joy M. Schmitz, Ph.D.; Professor Scott D. Lane, Ph.D.; Associate Professor Joel L. Steinberg, Ph.D.,; and Assistant Professor Kimberly Kjome, M.D.. Collaborators outside the Psychiatry Department include: from the Department of Pediatrics, Professor Jon E. Tyson, M.D., M.P.H., director of the medical school’s Center for Clinical Research & Evidence-Based Medicine; Professor Robert E. Lasky, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor Charles Green, Ph.D.; and Assistant Professor Claudia Pedroza, Ph.D.; from the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Imaging, Professor Ponnada Narayana, Ph.D.; Professor Larry A. Kramer. M.D.; and Associate Professor Khader M. Hasan, Ph.D.; and from Cardiology, Professor Anne Dougherty, M.D.; and Professor Bharat Kantharia, M.D.