NIDA Investigator Receives 2006 Waletzky Memorial Award

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Dr. Yavin Shaham, an investigator in NIDA's Intramural Research Program (IRP), is the recipient of the 2006 Jacob P. Waletzky Memorial Award for Innovative Research in Drug Addiction and Alcoholism.He accepted the award at NIDA's "Frontiers in Addiction Research" miniconference in Atlanta October 13.

photo of Dr. Yavin Shaham  2006 Jacob P.Waletzky Memorial Award winner, Dr. Yavin Shaham.

"Yavin Shaham's work has had far greater impact in the field of addiction than that of any other investigator in his generation," said Dr. Roy Wise of the IRP's Behavioral Neuroscience Research Branch in nominating Dr. Shaham for the award.

Stress-induced relapse has been a central focus of Dr. Shaham's research since 1992. Using animal models, he and his colleagues have demonstrated that stress can trigger a resumption in drug-seeking after a prolonged abstinence; they have also made great strides in identifying the neural systems involved in this process. Dr. Shaham's work has "shifted the paradigm in the addiction field from compulsive drug-taking to compulsive drug-seeking," Dr. Wise observed.

More recently, Dr. Shaham and his team established that exposure to drug-related cues can induce cravings for heroin and cocaine long after withdrawal, and that those cravings grow stronger over time—in the case of cocaine, remaining markedly elevated even after 6 months. They continue to explore the cellular basis for this so-called "incubation" of craving as well as for stress-induced relapse.

The $25,000 award is presented each year to a young scientist within 15 years of obtaining a doctoral degree and is intended to reward and encourage innovative research into the neurobiology of drug addiction and alcoholism. The Waletzky family established the award in 2003 in memory of Jacob P. Waletzky, who died at age 29 of cocaine-induced cardiac arrhythmia.