In 2011, the Distinguished Scientist Award was established by the Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience Program. This student-led award was developed as part the T32 Predoctoral Training Grant on Addiction Science. Each year, trainees in Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience select and invite a distinguished researcher in the substance abuse field to visit Carolina, make a seminar presentation, and interact individually with trainees.

Former awardees include Dr. Barry Setlow of the University of Florida College of Medicine (2012), Dr. Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan (2013), Dr. Gary Aston-Jones of the Medical University of South Carolina (2014), Dr. Patricia Janak of John Hopkins University (2015), and Dr. Courtney Miller of the Scripps Research Institute (2016).

This year’s recipient was Dr. Antonello Bonci, Scientific Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program. Dr. Bonci completed his M.D. at the Sacred Heart School of Medicine in Italy and his post-doctoral residence in the Department of Neurology at the University of California San Francisco. His research examines the synaptic properties of neurons in brain areas relevant to drug addiction and his laboratory was the first to demonstrate that drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, produce a form of synaptic plasticity called long-term potentiation. In 2010, Dr. Bonci was appointed the Scientific Director of NIDA and he is an adjunct professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry at the John Hopkins School of Medicine. He presented, “From Single Synapses to Clinical Studies: Therapeutic Developments from Optogenetics”, on February 7, 2017 and received the 2017 Distinguished Scientist Award.

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