WASHINGTON, DC — The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has named Karen D. Ersche of the University of Cambridge and Garret Stuber of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as co-recipients of the Jacob P. Waletzky Award. Supported by the Waletzky Award Prize Fund and the Waletzky Family, this $25,000 award recognizes young scientists who have conducted or plan to conduct independent research leading to significant conceptual and empirical contributions to the understanding of drug addiction. The award will be presented at Neuroscience 2017, SfN’s annual meeting and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.


“It is important to recognize the work of scientists combatting the global crisis of drug addiction,” SfN President Eric Nestler said. “We could not have two candidates more deserving of this year’s Waletzky Award than Dr. Ersche and Dr. Stuber, who have illumined new approaches to treatment and a more foundational understanding of how drug addiction affects the brain, respectively.”


Karen D. Ersche, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, in England, is regarded as one of the top researchers studying the etiology and treatment of human addiction, with an emphasis on cocaine addiction. Her research focuses on neuropsychological correlates and neurochemical processes underlying addictive behavior, as well as the translation of these findings into therapeutic interventions. Ersche takes both behavioral and immunological approaches to treating substance disorders and recreational drug users. This holistic approach includes assessing cognitive domains inherent in drug addiction and exploring substance-related neurobiological and neurocognitive alterations both apparent prior to the onset of addiction and/or resulting from addiction. Her findings have contributed to new behavioral and pharmacological approaches to treatment for drug addiction. Ersche has published nearly 60 articles in leading medical, pharmacological, and other scientific journals, including two publications in Science in the past four years. She serves on the boards of The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse and CNS Spectrums and advocates for issues of drug addiction as a member of the scientific advisory panel to the European College for Psychopharmacology.


Garret Stuber, PhD, is an associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Cell Biology & Physiology at the University of North Carolina Neuroscience Center. In the seven years since he started his lab, Stuber has become internationally known for his work characterizing neural circuits underlying behaviors associated with addiction, depression, and eating disorders. Stuber has contributed to knowledge of specific circuits and neurotransmitters associated with addictive behaviors and of how drug abuse modulates neural coding dynamics. He pioneered cell-level resolution in vivo calcium imaging, and his addiction research has led to the development and use of optogenetic technologies and provided insight into how synaptic plasticity is involved in drug addiction.


Scientists eligible for this award must have conducted or established a plan to conduct independent research within 15 years of receiving their PhD or MD degree.


The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 37,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system.