Researchers in the Yerkes Division of Neuropharmacology and Neurologic Diseases are working to advance the understanding of the active human brain through studies focusing on the development and function of the nervous system and anatomical differences seen when neurological disorders are present. Primary areas of research in the division include studies of the basal ganglia and its neurochemistry, neuroanatomy and role in neurologic diseases; medications to treat drug abuse and studies of drug receptors involved in the development of addiction; the role of hormones in aging and memory loss; neurodegenerative diseases; and studies addressing the neural systems involved in oculomotor functioning.
Discoveries made by division scientists have had direct implications for treatment of addiction and neurodegenerative diseases. For example, the research of Yerkes Director Stuart Zola, PhD, focuses on the role of the hippocampus in memory. His work has been the foundation of recent clinical studies aimed at clarifying memory impairment in patients diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. These studies will aid in the development of diagnostic criteria to identify developing Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
Research by Division Chief Leonard Howell, PhD is focused on cocaine addiction and medications to treat addiction. One such medication, RTI-336, is now in human clinical trials as a result of a collaborative research program for which Dr. Howell led the nonhuman primate research component.
In addition to Drs. Zola and Howell, core scientists for the division are Elizabeth Buffalo, PhD, Anthony W.S. Chan, DVM, PhD, James G. Herndon, PhD, MPH, Todd M. Preuss, PhD, Yoland Smith, PhD, Lary C. Walker, PhD, and Thomas Wichmann, MD. Division scientists serve as intellectual resources for animal models of psychiatric disorders for other scientists within Yerkes, as well as regional, national and international collaborators.