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Senior Investigator

Lorenzo Leggio, M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc.

Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology

Building 10 Room 1-5429
Center Dr MSC1108
Bethesda MD 20892-1108
Office: 301-435-9398
Lab: 301-435-9398

Lorenzo Leggio, M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc. serves as the Chief of the Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology, a joint NIAAA and NIDA laboratory. Dr. Leggio also serves as a NIH Senior Attending Medical Staff and as the Associate Director for Clinical Research for the NIDA IRP Medication Development Program. He is Professor (Adjunct) at Brown University. Dr. Leggio’s lab has pioneered research on the role of neuroendocrine signaling in alcohol- and drug-seeking behaviors via human laboratory studies. He has authored or co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has served as a regular reviewer for many journals, reviewer for NIH study sections and other U.S. and international funding agencies and member of a FDA Advisory Board. He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Peter G. Dodge Foundation, member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) and is also Founder and Chair of the NIH IRP Psychoneuroendocrinology Scientific Interest Group. Among other awards, he received the 2008 European Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism (ESBRA) Nordmann Award, the 2015 NIAAA Clinical Service Award, the 2016 NIAAA Mentoring Award, the 2016 RSA Early Career Investigator Award, the 2018 NIAAA Scientific Achievement Award and the 2018 ACNP Eva Kim Killam Award.

Dr. Leggio's CPN laboratory conducts clinical and translational inpatient and outpatient studies to identify possible novel medications for addiction. His group uses a combination of state-of-the-art, innovative bio behavioral and pharmacological procedures performed under well-controlled human laboratory conditions. Imaging brain techniques, such as fMRI and PET, are also employed. Dr. Leggio and his team are particularly interested in the role of the gut-liver-brain axis in alcohol- and drug-seeking behaviors. Specifically, the CPN laboratory is currently investigating the potential role of feeding-related pathways, such as ghrelin, leptin, oxytocin and GLP-1, as possible new neuropharmacological targets for the treatment of alcohol and substance use disorders. Other neuroendocrine pathways are also under investigation, such as the aldosterone / mineralocorticoid receptor pathway. The CPN laboratory has recently expanded its research looking at the role of the gut microbiota in heavy drinkers with a special emphasis on the relationships between alcohol-related seeking behaviors and the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Future research includes work on the effects of bariatric surgery on alcohol-related seeking behaviors. Both preclinical and human approaches are under development to shed light on the possible role of these pathways in alcohol and substance use disorders.

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  • 1) Aoun EG, Jimenez VA, Vendruscolo LF, Walter NAR, Barbier E, Ferrulli A, Haass-Koffler CL, Darakjian P, Lee MR, Addolorato G, Heilig M, Hitzemann R, Koob GF, Grant KA, Leggio L (2018)
  • A relationship between the aldosterone-mineralocorticoid receptor pathway and alcohol drinking: preliminary translational findings across rats, monkeys and humans
  • Mol Psychiatry, 2018;23(6):1466-1473, PMID: 28461696
  • 2) Farokhnia M, Grodin EN, Lee MR, Oot EN, Blackburn AN, Stangl BL, Schwandt ML, Farinelli LA, Momenan R, Ramchandani VA, Leggio L (2018)
  • Exogenous ghrelin administration increases alcohol self-administration and modulates brain functional activity in heavy-drinking alcohol-dependent individuals
  • Mol Psychiatry, 2018;23(10):2029-2038, PMID: 29133954
  • 3) Lee MR, Tapocik JD, Ghareeb M, Schwandt ML, Dias AA, Le AN, Cobbina E, Farinelli LA, Bouhlal S, Farokhnia M, Heilig M, Akhlaghi F, Leggio L (2018)
  • The novel ghrelin receptor inverse agonist PF-5190457 administered with alcohol: preclinical safety experiments and a phase 1b human laboratory study
  • Mol Psychiatry, 2018 May 4, PMID: 29728704
  • 4) Agabio R, Sinclair JM, Addolorato G, Aubin HJ, Beraha EM, Caputo F, Chick JD, de La Selle P, Franchitto N, Garbutt JC, Haber PS, Heydtmann M, Jaury P, Lingford-Hughes AR, Morley KC, Müller CA, Owens L, Pastor A, Paterson LM, Pélissier F, Rolland B, Stafford A, Thompson A, van den Brink W, de Beaurepaire R, Leggio L (2018)
  • Baclofen for the treatment of alcohol use disorder: the Cagliari Statement
  • Lancet Psychiatry, Dec;5(12), 957-960
  • 5) Leggio L, Zywiak WH, Fricchione SR, Edwards SM, de la Monte SM, Swift RM, Kenna GA (2014)
  • Intravenous ghrelin administration increases alcohol craving in alcohol-dependent heavy drinkers: a preliminary investigation
  • Biol Psychiatry, 76(9), 734-41
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