Clinical Neuroscience Branch (CNB)

What We Do:

The Clinical Neuroscience Branch (CNB) advances a clinical research and research training program focused on understanding the neurobiological substrates of drug abuse and addiction processes, including the etiology of drug use and transition from drug use to addiction. A major focus of this program is on the characterization of how abused drugs affect the structure and function of the human central nervous system. Another major emphasis of this program is on individual differences in neurobiological, genetic, and neurobehavioral factors that underlie increased risk for and/or resilience to drug abuse, addiction, and drug-related disorders.

Research Programs:

Clinical Neurobiology of Addiction

  • Structure and/or function of the human central nervous system following acute or chronic exposure of drugs of abuse, including studies characterizing brain changes during the different stages of drug abuse and addiction (e.g., drug use, dependence/addiction, withdrawal/abstinence, craving, and relapse)
  • Drug abuse and addiction as probes to understanding human brain plasticity

Cognitive Neuroscience

  • Neural basis of interrelationships between addiction and cognition/cognitive processes
  • How specific cognitive functions subserved by neural circuits that are affected by drugs of abuse contribute to addiction
  • Neural mechanisms that underlie normal cognitive function and determine the impact of drug abuse/addiction on these mechanisms
  • How brain activity correlated with cognitive functions changes as a result of different drug addiction treatment strategies

Neurobiology of Treatment

  • CNS status as a result of drug addiction treatment, specifically targeting neurobiological changes in response to pharmacological and/or behavioral treatment

Biological Etiology

  • Neurobiological factors underlying human vulnerability as well as resilience to drug abuse initiation, drug-seeking/abuse, addiction, craving, and relapse
  • Neurobiological factors responsible for human vulnerability with respect to time course to transition from drug use to addiction
  • Neurobiological and environmental factors and their influences on drug abuse/addiction

Human Genetics

  • Human genetic aspects of drug abuse vulnerability (and resilience)
  • Relationship between genetic variability and human brain structure/function


  • Neurobiological and neurobehavioral factors underlying co-occurrence of addiction with other neurological and psychiatric disorders

Neurobiology of HIV/AIDS

  • Interactions between drug abuse/addiction and HIV infection on clinical neurobiological and neurobehavioral processes
  • Influence of drug abuse and addiction on HIV/AIDS-related alterations of the CNS including onset, progression, and severity from early stages of infection through end-stage dementia

Neurobiology of Human Pain and Analgesia

  • Neurobiological processes involved in human pain and analgesia
  • Neurobiological processes mediating dependence on drugs (prescription opioids) or other pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions for pain and analgesia

Commonalities between Addiction and Other Disorders

  • Neurobiological processes that underlie both drug addiction and other impulse-control disorders (e.g., obesity, pathological gambling)

Staff Interests:

  • Steven Grant, Ph.D.Chief
    • Cognitive Neuroscience
    • Neuroeconomics and Decision-Making
    • Brain Imaging Technology and Radiotracer Development
    • Co-Morbidity
    • Commonalities Across Addictions
  • Harold W. Gordon, Ph.D.
    • Biological Etiology
    • Risk/Resilience Factors
    • Human Genetics
    • Individual Differences
    • Experimental Neuropsychology
  • Woody Lin, Ph.D.
    • AIDS and HIV
    • Pain and Analgesia
    • Co-Occurrence of Addiction and Other Disorders
  • Mary Kautz, Ph.D.
    • Neuropsychopharmacology
    • Neuroscience of Treatment
    • Neuroscience of Substance Abuse Prevention
    • Human Behavioral Psychopharmacology
    • Sensation and Perception
  • James Bjork, Ph.D.
    • Neuroeconomics
    • Impulsivity and decision-making
    • Adolescent brain development
    • Volumetric and functional brain imaging

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