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Addiction research takes spotlight through a national award

October 28, 2009
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Brookhaven scientist has expanded the understanding of cocaine’s pattern of abuse

Those who argue that behavioral health research deserves more prominence in the overall healthcare research agenda had to have been pleased with one of this year’s selections for the prestigious National Medal of Science award. Honored along with eight other researchers earlier this month, Joanna Fowler, PhD, senior scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, is a leading researcher on the mechanisms governing drug addiction.

Reacting to receiving the award, Fowler said, “It highlights the important public health issue of drug addiction, which really is a brain disease. We are pleased that we can give psychiatrists more tools to use in understanding addictive behavior and in treating people with addictive disorders.”

Fowler, an organic chemist and professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, has examined how cocaine’s rapid uptake and clearance in the brain informs the understanding of the drug’s typical pattern of abuse. Among her current research initiatives are efforts to develop methods for understanding how genes, brain chemistry and behavior interact. Fowler has been with Mount Sinai’s Department of Psychiatry since 2006.

Fowler received the National Medal of Science in a White House ceremony on Oct. 7. The award was created by an act of Congress 50 years ago to honor individuals making significant contributions in the physical, biological, mathematical and engineering sciences.

This is not Fowler’s first major award, or her first recent one at that. Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004, she also received the academy’s Award in Chemistry earlier this year.

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