UMD News Releases

Communication Associate: Public Relations | Lori Melton | | (218) 726-8830

April 8, 2002
Susan Beasy Latto, Director of Public Relations 218 726-8830
Professor Bilin Tsai, Head, Department of Chemistry 2128 726-7220

National Expert on Mapping Drug Addiction in the Human Brain to Speak at UMD April 13
" What Changes in the Brain Lead to Addiction and Loss of Control?"

"Imaging Drug Addiction in the Human Brain" will be the topic of a lecture by Dr. Joanna Fowler, Senior Scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Saturday, April 13 at 4 p.m. in UMD Life Science Building, room 185. The speech is presented by the UMD Spectrum Lecture Series and is free and open to the public.

The lecture will highlight advances which Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging has brought in understanding how drugs of abuse affect the human brain. This topic cuts across medical specialties of neurology, psychiatry, cancer and heart disease because of the high toll that drugs of abuse (including legal drugs such as cigarettes and alcohol) take on society.

"It has taken many years to conceptualize addiction as a disease of the brain, rather than lack of will power or a voluntary pursuit of pleasure," says Dr. Fowler. "We have used PET (a medical imaging method) to learn why drugs are pleasurable and what changes in the human brain lead to the loss of control which characterizes the addicted individual. PET technology allows us to image the movement of drugs in the human brain and also their effects on many biochemical systems including those which are involved in reward and sense of well-being. Major advances in chemistry allow us to visualize the neurotransmitter systems which are at the heart of an individual’s sense of reward and well-being."

As director of the Cyclotron-PET Program at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, Dr. Fowler heads an interdisciplinary team of chemists, physicists, neuroscientists, psychiatrists and pharmacologists that studies drug and alcohol addiction by imaging the brain. Her work has revealed binding sites for various drugs, including cocaine, and their role in addiction. She and her colleagues have developed several radioactive organic tracers that make detection and analysis by PET possible.

To set an interview with Dr. Fowler, contact Professor Bilin Tsai at 218 726-7220 or

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