Division of Neuroscience and Behavior (DNB)

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.

Featured Paper

Early life adversity promotes resilience to opioid addiction-related phenotypes in male rats and sex-specific transcriptional changes

A new study published in PNAS from the Bangasser laboratory at Temple University provides evidence that early life adversity selectively protects males against developing addiction-related behaviors and underscores the importance of sex by environment interactions in vulnerability to substance use disorders. The study in rats by Ordoñes Sanchez, Bavley, et al., demonstrated sex-specific effects of mild early life adversity on impulsivity and opioid self-administration that were linked to sex differences in synaptic activity and transcription profiles in nucleus accumbens neurons. Specifically, male rats exposed to a low resource environment early in life were less impulsive and self-administered less morphine than control rats. This was associated with decreased frequency of excitatory postsynaptic potentials in nucleus accumbens neurons and resistance to morphine-induced increases in the AMPA:NMDA ratio. Early life adversity also had sex-specific effects on gene transcription particularly in genes related to glutamatergic transmission. Together the results suggested that mild early life adversity may offer some resilience selectively to males in developing opioid addiction. The results underscore the importance of considering sex in understanding how socioenvironmental factors influence propensity to develop substance use disorders. PNAS February 23, 2021 118(8) e2020173118

Staff Highlights

Dr. Steven Grant

It is with mixed feelings that we announce the retirement of Dr. Steve Grant from the Division of Neuroscience and Behavior (DNB) as of March 2021. Steve has been with Program Staff for over 22 years, including 11 years as the Chief of the Clinical Neuroscience Branch within the erstwhile Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavior Research. During his tenure at NIDA, Steve’s program portfolio spanned the cognitive neuroscience of addiction – including neuroeconomics, decision-making, sleep, and metacognition – and development and application of neuroimaging technology; he has undoubtedly played a significant role in shaping how addiction is studied in the laboratory. Most recently, Steve served as a Science Officer for the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) project and was the DNB coordinator for identifying and facilitating the bi-directional translation of the animal and human research supported within the division. He was also significantly involved with BRAIN Initiative, Blueprint, and HEAL programs, and played an instrumental role in advancing NIDA priorities at external societies such as American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP). Finally, Steve has been a fountain of knowledge within NIDA and generously offered his time and energy towards mentoring numerous Program Officers over the years. His wisdom, geekiness, and breadth of experience will be sorely missed following his departure. 

To honor Steve’s long and illustrious career at NIDA a virtual symposium will be held on June 9th, 2021 (details forthcoming).

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:

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)