Division of Neuroscience and Behavior (DNB)

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Cover of Special Issue of Biological Psychiatry
Check out the Special Issue of Biological Psychiatry, edited by Rita Valentino, Walter Koroshetz and Nora Volkow.

What We Do:

The mission of the Division of Neuroscience and Behavior is to discover, facilitate and promote outstanding basic animal and human research towards the mission of NIDA, to identify the causes and consequences of drugs of abuse and addiction across the lifespan and to guide treatment strategies. We develop and support an extramural research program that will advance the understanding of the genetic, chemical, neurobiological and behavioral mechanisms of drugs of abuse and their long-term consequences. Research related to the neurobiological bases of reward and the behaviors that characterize the cycle of addiction are a primary focus of DNB. Additionally, an integral component of our scientific mission is to grow and maintain a diverse workforce that is dedicated towards our research goals and this is supported through training initiatives that span from predoctoral level to mid-stage investigator.

Staff Highlights

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Dr. Rao Rapaka

Dr. Rao Rapaka, who served as Chief of the Chemistry, Pharmacology and Physiology Branch of DNB retired as of January 2020. During his 35 year tenure at NIDA (25 years as Branch Chief) he shaped the field of chemistry and pharmacology of drugs of abuse by recognizing and steering talented junior investigators to NIDA, facilitating successful collaborations, seeding innovative ideas and promoting and disseminating outstanding research. He was highly respected by knew everyone in the field as evidenced by numerous Lifetime Achievement Awards that were bestowed upon him at meetings in just the last few years. We will all miss his insightful talks, his humor and his wisdom. We are fortunate to have Rao stay on for a few months as a program officer to assist with the transition to a new Branch Chief.

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Dr. Subramaniam (Sam) Ananthan

We are pleased to introduce Dr. Subramaniam (Sam) Ananthan as the new Chief of the Chemistry, Pharmacology and Physiology Branch of DNB. Dr. Ananthan is a medicinal chemist with more than 30 years of experience in the discovery and development of new therapeutics for the treatment of pain, addiction, and other central nervous system disorders. He holds 21 U.S. patents and has been inducted as a Fellow of National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He has been an active member of the American Chemical Society.  With his broad knowledge and expertise, we look forward to seeing how his leadership will shape the field.

We also welcome Dr. Kiran Vemuri as a Program Officer in the Chemistry, Pharmacology, Physiology Branch and Dr. John Fedota as a Program Officer in the Behavioral, Cognitive Neuroscience Branch.

DNB is organized by four scientific Branches that focus on complementary strategic research areas:

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Structure of the DNB, see text below
  • The Chemistry Pharmacology Branch (CP), directed by Dr. Subramaniam (Sam) Ananthan, is focused on early discovery and validation of targets to treat substance use disorders and adverse effects of drugs of abuse.  Areas of interest include the structural dynamics of receptors, computational drug design, novel mechanisms of drug delivery.
  • The Genetics, Epigenetics and Development Branch (GED), directed by Jonathan Pollock , is focused on genetic determinants of vulnerability to drug abuse and addiction, effects of drugs of abuse on epigenetic and non-coding factors that regulate gene expression and the consequences of exposure to drugs of abuse at different windows of development.
  • The Behavioral Cognitive Neuroscience Branch (BCN), directed by Vani Pariyadath, is concerned with the behavioral, cognitive and environmental antecedents of exposure to drugs of abuse and behavioral, cognitive and environmental approaches for treating drug abuse, addiction and the adverse consequences of drugs of abuse.
  • The Integrative Neuroscience Branch (IN), directed by Roger Sorensen, supports research related to the effects of drugs of abuse on neural activity and plasticity from cellular to network levels.  Additionally, this branch supports research on the effects on neuroimmune signaling and neuron-glial interactions.
  • Dr. Mary Kautz is the DNB lead of the The Tobacco regulatory science program (TRSP)

Certain cross-cutting programs span all four branches including a portfolio in HIV-AIDS research, Data Science Research (led by Susan Wright, Ph.D.) and research related to sex and gender contributions to individual variability. DNB also encourages studies that leverage tools and technology arising from the BRAIN initiative to address questions relevant to substance abuse. 

DNB encourages applicants to consider the importance of design and reproducibility of their findings, as applicable.

Related Funding Opportunities:

Staff Listings:

Mailing Address:

Division of Neuroscience and Behavior
National Institute on Drug Abuse
3WFN MSC 6018
301 North Stonestreet Ave 
Bethesda, MD  20892

For courier deliveries use: Rockville, MD 20850


(301) 594-6043 (fax)