Dr. Geoffrey Schoenbaum, a professor in the department of anatomy and neurobiology and the department of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is the recipient of the 2009 Jacob P. Waletzky Memorial Award for Innovative Research in Drug Addiction and Alcoholism. He accepted the award and delivered the keynote lecture at NIDA's "Frontiers in Addiction Research" miniconference in Chicago, Illinois, on October 16, 2009.
Dr. Schoenbaum's research demonstrates that exposure to abused drugs induces long-lasting changes to the brain's learning circuits, which can lead to a loss of control over behavior. His animal studies provide insight into why people addicted to drugs continue to abuse substances despite the negative consequences on health, relationships, and other aspects of life. Dr. Schoenbaum and colleagues combine sophisticated learning protocols and electrophysiology to examine drug-induced disruptions in the cellular processes underlying behavior regulation—particularly in the orbitofrontal cortex, a region of the brain that influences decisionmaking.
The $25,000 award is presented each year to a scientist who has received a doctoral degree within the past 15 years, and it is intended to reward and encourage innovative research into the neurobiology of drug addiction and alcoholism. The Waletzky family established the award in 2003 in memory of Jacob P. Waletzky, who died at age 29 of cocaine-induced cardiac arrhythmia.