Lorenzo Leggio

Lorenzo Leggio, MD, PhD, MSc, Chief

Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology (CPN), LCTS

*Jointly National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
10 Center Drive (10CRC/15330) MSC 1108
Room 1-5429
Bethesda, MD 20892-1108
telephone: 301.435.9398
e-mail: lorenzo.leggio@nih.gov
Lab e-mail: CPNResearch@mail.nih.gov
NIDA website: http://irp.drugabuse.gov/Leggio.php

Dr. Leggio serves as the Chief of the joint NIAAA-NIDA Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology, LCTS. Dr. Leggio received his MD and PhD from the Catholic University of Rome and ‘Agostino Gemelli’ hospital, where he also completed residency in internal medicine. He also received a Masters in ‘Alcohol-related diseases and problems’ from the University of Florence. He was a visiting research associate, then postdoctoral research associate in Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University, Providence, RI. In 2010, Dr. Leggio joined the faculty of the Brown University Medical School as Assistant Professor (Research) and Core Faculty at the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (CAAS). Dr. Leggio’s clinical research has been primarily focused on the treatment of alcoholism, with a special emphasis on the role of feeding-related as well as GABAergic pathways; and on the medical consequences of alcoholism, with a special emphasis on alcoholic liver disease. As a Principal Investigator, Dr. Leggio received extramural research funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Additionally, he received research funding from the European Foundation for Alcohol Research, Brown University CAAS, ABMRF/The Foundation for Alcohol Research, and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (formerly NARSAD). In June 2012, Dr. Leggio joined the NIAAA and NIDA Intramural Clinical Programs as Tenure-Track Clinical Investigator and Section Chief. Additionally he is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University (Providence, RI).

What we do

Dr. Leggio's Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology (CPN) conducts translational and clinical outpatient and inpatient studies in order to identify possible novel medications for addiction. This group uses a combination of state-of-the-art and novel bio behavioral and pharmacological procedures performed under well-controlled human laboratory conditions. Imaging brain techniques, such as fMRI and PET, are also employed. At present, Dr. Leggio and his team are conducting a human laboratory study with anxious alcoholic individuals in order to better understand the bio behavioral mechanisms by which the GABAB receptor agonist baclofen may affect alcohol-seeking behaviors. Additionally, Dr. Leggio and his team are particularly interested in the role of the gut-liver-brain axis in alcohol-seeking behaviors. Specifically, the CPN group is currently investigating the potential role of feeding-related pathways, such as ghrelin, oxytocin and GLP-1, as possible new neuropharmacological targets for alcoholism treatment. Both preclinical and human approaches are in progress or under development in order to shed light on the possible role of these pathways in alcoholism.

Current Staff

Mary Lee Mary R. Lee, MD
Staff Clinician
telephone: 301.827.0545
e-mail: leemary@mail.nih.gov
Dr. Mary Lee received her medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1989. She completed residency in internal medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and subsequently completed a psychiatric residency at George Washington University. Dr. Lee is board certified in psychiatry, internal medicine and addiction medicine. She joined CPN in November of 2012. Her research has focused on the effect of intranasal oxytocin on drug craving, reward learning, and emotional processing in drug dependent and schizophrenic patients. In addition, she has investigated the neurobehavioral effects of genetic polymorphisms, COMT and OPRM, on reward processing in smokers and drug users. Her current research is on the role of oxytocin in alcohol and drug use disorders and the use of TMS to understand the neurocircuitry of nicotine addiction. She is the PI of a translational and clinical project on the role of oxytocin in alcoholism for which she received an NIH Bench-to-Bedside (B2B) Award by the Office of Behavioral & Social Sciences Research (OBSSR).
Lindsay Arcurio

Lindsay R. Arcurio, Ph.D.
Post-Doctoral Fellow
telephone: 301.402.6094
emails: lindsay.arcurio@nih.gov
Dr. Lindsay Arcurio earned her doctorate degree in Psychology, majoring in Cognitive Neuroscience, from Indiana University in 2014. At Indiana University, her research focused on the neural mechanisms of high-risk, decisions-to-drink in alcohol dependent women, using fMRI and task-based functional connectivity. In addition, she has investigated the neural activity associated with high-risk sexual and eating decisions. Dr. Arcurio joined the CPN section in July 2014 as a Post-Doctoral Fellow. She is currently investigating the effects of ghrelin on alcohol administration in non-treatment seeking heavy drinkers and is specifically interested in how ghrelin modulates neural activity associated with alcohol consumption.

Mehdi Farokhnia

Mehdi Farokhnia, M.D.
Post-Doctoral Fellow
telephone: 301.827.1488
emails: mehdi.farokhnia@nih.gov

Dr. Mehdi Farokhnia received his medical degree from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in 2012. During medical school and after that, he has designed and conducted a variety of research projects while working as a research associate at the Psychiatric Research Center, Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital, Tehran, Iran. Dr. Farokhnia is interested in investigating the neurobiological correlates of psychiatric disorders as potential neuropsychopharmacological targets. His clinical research has been focused on the treatment of disabling mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, and autism. Dr. Farokhnia joined the CPN section in May 2014 as a Post-Doctoral Fellow. He is currently working on a human laboratory study of the GABAB receptor agonist baclofen in anxious alcoholic individuals.

Frable Christian
Christian Frable
Post-Bac IRTA Fellow
telephone: 301.827.0905
email: christian.frable@nih.gov

Christian Frable joined the CPN Section in August 2013 after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. His professional interests surround addiction and global mental health. He is supporting current studies at CPN, helping coordinate and run screening and experimental sessions. Additionally, he is supporting the NIH/NCATS study on the role of ghrelin receptor antagonism in alcoholism.

April Le April Le
Technical IRTA Fellow
telephone: 301.827.0308
email: april.le@nih.gov

April Le joined the CPN Section in March 2014. She has a Master’s degree in Pharmacology from the University of Oxford and Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Psychology from the University of California, San Diego. Her background and interests lie in behavioral neuropharmacology where she has experience in drug discovery and development at the molecular and cellular level for the development of human therapeutics, within industry and academic research environments. She is currently studying an experimental ghrelin receptor antagonist and its effects in heavy drinkers as a potential treatment for alcoholism.

Ashley Blackburn Ashley Blackburn
Post-Bac IRTA Fellow
telephone: 301.451.6974
email: ashley.blackburn@nih.gov

Ashley Blackburn joined CPN in May of 2014. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2013 and then spent 1 year as the project coordinator in Dr. James MacKillop’s experimental & clinical psychopharmacology laboratory. Ashley’s primary role includes coordinating a clinical study that uses a computer-based alcohol self-administration paradigm and fMRI to research the effect of ghrelin on reward-seeking and addiction.

Matthew Rohn Jonathan Amodio
Post-Bac IRTA Fellow
telephone: 301.435.9383
email: jonathan.amodio@nih.gov

Jonathan Amodio joined the CPN section in May of 2014. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and a minor in Chemistry. His primary research experience as an undergraduate involved the study of infants with autism with the goal of finding earlier markers for autism. His main role at CPN includes supporting a human laboratory study of the GABAB receptor agonist baclofen in anxious alcoholic individuals.

Matthew Rohn Matthew Rohn
Post-Bac IRTA Fellow
telephone: 301.827.0330
email: matt.rohn@nih.gov

Matthew Rohn joined CPN in July of 2014, after graduating from Haverford College with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. As part of his degree, he has done extensive research involving small peptides for development towards medical applications. Matthew’s background in Biochemistry and interest in Medicine led him to CPN, where his primary role is to support a translational and clinical investigation of oxytocin and its role in alcoholism.

Adjunct Staff (off-campus/not supported by the NIH)

Petra Suchankova Karlsson, PhD, MSc
Special Volunteer/Research Collaborator (supported by the Swedish Brain Foundation)
e-mails: petra.suchankova@pharm.gu.se & petra.karlsson@nih.gov 

Dr. Petra Suchankova Karlsson earned a Master in Molecular Life Science Research from King’s College of London, UK; and then a PhD in Pharmacology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Since 2011, she has been working as lecturer and researcher in the pharmacology lab led by Jörgen Engel and Elisabet Jerlhag Holm. Her work has focused on the role of genetic variations of feeding-related pathways (e.g., ghrelin and GLP-1) in alcoholism. Dr. Suchankova Karlsson received the Swedish Brain Foundation postdoc grant for 2013 and joined the NIAAA-NIDA CPN Section in January 2013 as a Guest Researcher. She returned to the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, in September 2013 and will continue working with the CPN team as a Research Collaborator. Dr. Suchankova Karlsson received a postdoc grant from the Swedish Society for Medical Research for 2014-2015, which will allow her to further investigate the role of appetitive networks in addiction.

Jared Bollinger
Jared Bollinger
Special Volunteer
e-mail: jared.bollinger@nih.gov

Jared Bollinger was a Post-Bac IRTA fellow in the CPN Section from June 2012 to June 2014. His work in the CPN Section included coordinating resources, recruitment, and assessments for the Section’s inaugural studies involving randomized controlled trials of the GABAB receptor agonist baclofen and the feeding-related peptide ghrelin in alcoholism. After leaving Dr. Leggio’s lab, Jared joined the Uniformed Services University (Bethesda, MD) as a graduate student in Clinical Psychology. He is still collaborating with the CPN Section as a Special Volunteer.

Current Research Support

The CPN Section is funded jointly by the Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Additional Research Support:

  • Dr. Leggio is the current recipient of a NARSAD Young Investigator grant from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (baclofen project).
  • Dr. Leggio is one of the two PIs (Co-PI: Dr. Fatemeh Akhlaghi, URI) of an NCATS-funded grant award (funding limited to extramural component at URI) designed as an NIH Academia-Industry collaborative project (ghrelin receptor antagonism project)
  • Dr. Lee is the current recipient of an NIH Bench-to-Bedside (B2B) grant award funded by the Office of Behavioral & Social Sciences Research (oxytocin project).

Current Projects

A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Human Laboratory Pilot Study of baclofen in Anxious Alcoholics

Effects of ghrelin on Alcohol Administration in Non-Treatment Seeking Heavy Drinkers

A Novel Compound for Alcoholism Treatment: A Translational Strategy
http://www.ncats.nih.gov/research/reengineering/rescue-repurpose/therapeutic-uses/projects-2013.html#rhodeisland http://clinicalstudies.info.nih.gov/cgi/wais/bold032001.pl?A_14-AA-0042.html@ghrelin@@@@

Oxytocin in Alcohol Dependence: A Novel and Translational Approach.


Selected Publications

  1. L. Leggio, W.H. Zywiak, S.R. Fricchione, S.M. Edwards, S.M. de la Monte, R.M. Swift, G.A. Kenna. Intravenous Ghrelin Administration Increases Alcohol Craving in Alcohol-Dependent Heavy Drinkers: A Preliminary Investigation. Biol Psychiatry 2014 (in press).
  2. L. Leggio, W.H. Zywiak, S.M. Edwards, J.W. Tidey, R.M. Swift, G.A. Kenna. A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study of baclofen effects in alcoholic smokers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2014 (in press)
  3. G.A. Kenna, W.H. Zywiak, R.M. Swift, J.E. McGeary, J.S. Clifford, J.R. Shoaff, C. Vuittonet, S. Fricchione, M. Brickley, K. Beaucage, C.L. Haass-Koffler, L. Leggio. Ondansetron Reduces Naturalistic Drinking in Nontreatment-Seeking Alcohol-Dependent Individuals with the LL 5'-HTTLPR Genotype: A Laboratory Study. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014;38(6):1567-74.
  4. L. Leggio, M.L. Schwandt, E.N. Oot, A.A. Dias, V.A. Ramchandani. Fasting-induced increase in plasma ghrelin is blunted by intravenous alcohol administration: a within-subject placebo-controlled study. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013;38(12):3085-91.
  5. L. Leggio, W.H. Zywiak, J.E. McGeary, S. Edwards, S.R. Fricchione, J.R. Shoaff, G. Addolorato, R.M. Swift and G. A. Kenna. A human laboratory pilot study with baclofen in alcoholic individuals. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior 2013;103(4):784-91.
  6. L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, S. Cardone, A. Nesci, A. Miceli, N. Malandrino, E. Capristo, B. Canestrelli, P. Monteleone, G.A. Kenna, R.M. Swift and G. Addolorato. Ghrelin system in alcohol-dependent subjects: role of plasma ghrelin levels in alcohol drinking and craving. Addiction Biology 2012;17(2):452-64.
  7. L. Leggio, L.A. Ray, G.A. Kenna and R.M. Swift. Blood glucose level, alcohol heavy drinking, and alcohol craving during treatment for alcohol dependence: results from the Combined Pharmacotherapies and Behavioral Interventions for Alcohol Dependence (COMBINE) Study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2009;33(9):1539-44.
  8. L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, S. Cardone, N. Malandrino, A. Mirijello, C. D'Angelo, L. Vonghia, A. Miceli, E. Capristo, G.A. Kenna, G. Gasbarrini, R.M. Swift and G. Addolorato. Relationship between the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis and alcohol craving in alcohol-dependent patients: a longitudinal study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2008;32(12):2047-53.
  9. L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, N. Malandrino, A. Miceli, E. Capristo, G. Gasbarrini and G. Addolorato. Insulin but not insulin growth factor-1 correlates with craving in currently drinking alcohol-dependent patients. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2008;32(3):450-8.
  10. G. Addolorato, L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, S. Cardone, L. Vonghia, A. Mirijello, L. Abenavoli, C. D'Angelo, F. Caputo, A. Zambon, P.S. Haber and G. Gasbarrini. Effectiveness and safety of baclofen for maintenance of alcohol abstinence in alcohol-dependent patients with liver cirrhosis: randomised, double-blind controlled study. Lancet. 2007;370(9603):1915-22.

Section Alumni


Position after leaving the lab

Steven Edwards, B.S.; *Research Assistant: 2010-2012

Clinical Psychology PhD Student, University of Nebraska

Samuel Fricchione, B.S.; *Research Assistant: 2010-2012

Behavioral Social Sciences Intervention MS Student and Research Assistant, Brown University

Christine Goodwin, M.Sc; *Research Volunteer: 2012 Research Assistant, Brown University

Eugenia Gurvich; *Undergraduate Student: 2012

Analyst at Goldman Sachs

Allison Feduccia, PhD; Post-Doctoral Fellow, 2012-2013

Non-profit Organization

Myung Ha Jung, Special Volunteer: 2013-2014 Nursing School Program, Gacheon University, Seoul, Korea
Jared Bollinger, B.S.; Post-Bac IRTA Fellow: 2012-2014 Graduate Student, Clinical Psychology Program, Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD
Emily Oot, B.A., Technical IRTA Fellow: 2012-2014 Graduate Student in Behavioral Neuroscience, Trans-disciplinary training in the addiction sciences (TTPAS) fellowship program, Boston University, Boston, MA
Lexi Dias, B.S.; Post-Bac IRTA Fellow: 2012-2014 Medical Student, Lincoln Memorial University DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, Harrogate, TN

*in Dr. Leggio’s Lab at Brown University before the NIH CPN Section was created