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 diseases. 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 Research Programs, where he is a Tenure-Track Clinical Investigator and Section Chief. Additionally, he is also 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

The mission of the joint NIAAA-NIDA Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology (CPN) is to contribute to a deeper understanding of possible pharmacological treatments for alcohol and drug use disorders. We conduct outpatient and inpatient clinical studies using a combination of state-of-the-art and novel biobehavioral and pharmacological procedures performed under well-controlled human laboratory conditions, in order to identify possible novel medications for addiction. This section is particularly interested in: 1) investigating  feeding-related pathways (e.g. ghrelin, GLP-1, insulin, hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis, oxytocin) as novel neuropharmacological targets for alcoholism; and 2) identifying biobehavioral mechanisms and markers that predict treatment outcomes of promising medications (e.g. GABAB agonists) for the treatment of alcoholism.

Current Staff

Mary Lee Mary R. Lee, MD
Staff Clinician
telephone: 301.827.0545
e-mail: leemary@mail.nih.gov

Dr. 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 both internal medicine and addiction medicine. She is currently Staff Clinician in the Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology (CPN) at NIAAA/NIDA and in the Office of the Clinical Director at NIDA. 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.

Petra Suchankova

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

Dr. 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.

Emily Oot Emily Oot
Technical IRTA
telephone: 301.827.0330
email: emily.oot@nih.gov

Emily Oot joined CPN in July of 2012. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2010 and then spent 2 years as a research assistant and lab manager in Dr. Rachel Barr’s infant cognition lab at Georgetown before coming to the NIH. Emily’s responsibilities include phone screening, coordinating and running both screening and experimental visits, administering assessments and clinical interviews, and data entry and analysis.

Jared Bollinger Jared Bollinger
Post-Bac IRTA
telephone: 301.451.6974
email: jared.bollinger@nih.gov

Jared Bollinger joined CPN in June 2012 after receiving a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from the University of Georgia. Currently, Jared’s primary work includes coordinating resources, recruitment, and assessments for the Section’s inaugural studies involving randomized controlled trials of the GABAB agonist baclofen and the feeding-related peptide ghrelin in alcoholism. Additionally, his personal research interests include how social network drinking patterns affect experimental outcomes as well as how cognitive biases are implicated in addictive behaviors.

Lexi Dias Lexi Dias
Post-Bac IRTA
telephone: 301.827.0308
email: lexi.dias@nih.gov

Lexi Dias joined CPN in August 2012. She graduated from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina in May 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, a Minor in Biology and a Minor in Chemistry. Lexi’s responsibilities include recruiting and screening healthy volunteers for participation in studies, scheduling and administering various psychological evaluations, and conducting sessions for study protocols.

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

Christian Frable joined CPN 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 experimental sessions.  He will soon begin working on a study, part of a collaborative pilot initiative led by NIH/NCATS, on the role of ghrelin receptor antagonism in alcoholism.


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). Additionally, Dr. Leggio is the current recipient of a NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF).


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


Selected Publications

  1. L. Leggio, M.L. Schwandt, E.N. Oot, A.A. Dias and V.A. Ramchandani. Fasting-induced increase in plasma ghrelin is blunted by intravenous alcohol administration: A within-subject placebo-controlled study. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Sep 13. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. 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.
  3. G.A. Kenna, R.M. Swift, T. Hillemacher and L. Leggio. The relationship of appetitive, reproductive and posterior pituitary hormones to alcoholism and craving in humans. Neuropsychology Review 2012;22(3):211-28.
  4. L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, A. Zambon, F. Caputo, G.A. Kenna, R.M. Swift and G. Addolorato. Baclofen promotes alcohol abstinence in alcohol dependent cirrhotic patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Addictive Behaviors 2012;37(4):561-4.
  5. 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.
  6. L. Leggio. Role of the ghrelin system in alcoholism: Acting on the growth hormone secretagogue receptor to treat alcohol-related diseases. Drug News & Perspective 2010;23(3):157-66.
  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

Eugenia Gurvich; *Undergraduate Student: 2012

Analyst at Goldman Sachs

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

Non-profit Organization

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