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) and Dr. Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan (2013).
This year’s recipient was Dr. Gary Aston-Jones, Murray and Charlotte Strongwater Endowed Chair in Neuroscience and Brain Health and Director of the Rutgers Brain Health Institute. He earned his Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the California Institute of Technology and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute. His research focus on the modulation of reward behavior, addiction, and cognitive functions by ascending brain monoamine and peptide systems. He recently described a role for the brain noradrenergic locus coeruleus system in decision and behavioral flexibility, as well as the key role for the neuropeptides orexin/hypocretins in reward processing and addiction. He presented, “Multiple Circuits Converge in VTA to Support Reward Seeking”, on February 21, 2014 and received the 2014 Distinguished Scientist Award.