The Scripps Research Institute Alcohol Research Center

The Scripps Research Institute ARC


Our Mission

For over 25 Years The Scripps Research Institute Alcohol Research Center (TSRI-ARC) has been devoted to the study of the effects of alcohol on the brain and how these effects lead to alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Alcoholism can be defined as a behavioral disorder characterized by an obsession with obtaining and using alcohol and disregarding other important activities that do not involve alcohol use. Other serious problems that can occur in alcoholism are an inability to control alcohol use, medical and psychological problems caused by alcohol use, craving alcohol, and difficulty staying sober once a person has stopped drinking.

Barbara Mason, Ph.D.

The focus of our research is the clinical evaluation of potential medications for alcohol use disorder ranging from proof-of-concept early phase human laboratory studies to longer-term, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical efficacy studies. A critical aspect is the dynamic feedback from the research findings of pre-clinical and clinical studies, which are designed to streamline information and provide converging evidence for clinical use.

Marisa Roberto, Ph.D.

Marisa Roberto, Ph.D. The aim of our group is to understand the effects of alcohol on neuronal function and synaptic transmission using electrophysiological, pharmacological, and molecular methods. We have characterized several neuroadaptative changes that provide seminal insights into synaptic transmission and that will be useful towards developing new therapeutic agents to alleviate alcohol dependence

Cindy Ehlers, Ph.D.

Our laboratory has been studying natural variation in the genes that encode the structure of the enzymes that metabolize alcohol between ethnic groups and conducting genome-wide scans for other genes that influence the development of alcoholism. The goal of our studies is to identify candidate genes that encode for the neurophysiological processes that underlie drug dependence. 

Olivier George, Ph.D.

The main goals of the lab are to unveil the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the transition to drug addiction and to develop novel pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments to reduce compulsive drug seeking and taking. Importantly, I oversee the animal core facility, ensuring that the vapor chamber system and blood alcohol level determinations are performed in timely, robust and consistent manner and that data are compiled into a searchable database.

Candice Contet, Ph.D.

Our laboratory investigates the molecular mechanisms mediating the behavioral effects of alcohol, with a focus on neuroadaptations driving excessive alcohol drinking. Our focuses are GIRK and BK channels, two potassium channels that can be activated by alcohol in vitro and examining the role of the neuropeptide CRF in the transition t

Eric Zorrilla, Ph.D.

Our laboratory is interested in genetic, epigenetic and neuroadaptive differences in the neurobiology of reward and stress circuits that subserve the control of food intake as well as of other appetitive (reward-driven) and stress-related behaviors. Our work aims to be therapeutically relevant to the increased incidence of obesity, binge eating disorders, alcoholism and drug addiction, and stress-related psychiatric disorders of anxiety and depression in industrialized societies.

Remi Martin-Fardon, Ph.D.

The goal of our studies is to advance the understanding of the implication of the orexin (Orx/Hcrt) system in alcohol seeking.  A primary focus is the neurobiological basis of chronic vulnerability to relapse by focusing on Orx/Hcrt transmission in the PVT as a novel neural substrate that may be responsible for the distinctly compulsive nature of alcohol seeking as opposed to behavior motivated by natural rewards.

David Gilder, M.D.

A psychiatrist with interests in psychopharmacology of depression, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, addiction and dementia. In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Gilder has a special interest in the study of risk and protective factors in addiction disorders.

Chitra Mandyam, Ph.D.

Our lab studies the neurogenic mechanisms altered by complex behavior patterns, including addiction and dependence to stimulants and alcohol with emphasis on understanding the dynamics and mature cell fate of medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampal progenitors that partly maintain the adult medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampal plasticity.

The TSRI-ARC is comprised of five research components and four Cores that include an Administrative Core, Animal Models and Biochem Measuring Core, Viral Vector Core, and a Pilot program. This group of individuals is defined as the "Center at Large." In addition, there is an Education component to expand the outreach of the TSRI-ARC and the Center at Large to the community. This structure has evolved to serve four basic needs: innovative science, core needs, introduction of new investigators, and education.

First, high quality innovative science is served by the five research components with a common conceptual thread to move the field forward. Both animal and clinical studies are focused on the neuropharmacological basis for the initiation of drinking, binge drinking, and the neuroadaptive changes associated with protracted abstinence that convey a vulnerability to alcoholism. Second, four core components serve to provide common needs to the TSRI-ARC and the Center at Large. The Administrative Core coordinates progress, resource allocation, collaboration, and communication. The Animal Models & Biological Measures Core provides dependence induction, blood alcohol levels, vaginal smears, as well as continued development of validated models for studying the neuropharmacological basis of alcoholism. It also provides neuropharmacological tools for measuring specific neurotransmitter/neuromodulators in dialysates and cerebrospinal fluid, specific neuropharmacological agents for activating and inactivating specific neurochemical systems as well as synthesis of novel compounds as neuropharmacological probes. Third, new investigators and novel approaches are brought to the TSRI-ARC and Center at Large via the Pilot Component. Fourth, the TSRI-ARC reaches out to the community with a newly formulated Education Component where the basic findings from our research program and the alcohol community as a whole are translated to the medical and treatment professionals and the general public in the San Diego community.