Professor Karen Ersche
Professor of Addiction Neuroscience
Fellow of Clare Hall
Head of the Drug Addiction Research Group
My enthusiasm for drug addiction research is rooted in the opportunity that science offers to make a difference to the lives of people affected by addiction. In as much as scientific advances have fundamentally changed the concept of addiction from initially a character defect to eventually a brain disorder, I strongly believe that science can also provide a pathway for the development of effective treatments for this disorder.
My research addresses the fundamental questions pertaining to the development of addiction, such as why some people become addicted to drugs whereas others (even those who take them) do not, and whether the brain abnormalities seen in drug-dependent individuals are caused by long-term drug abuse or if these abnormalities existed before they started using drugs, potentially predisposing them to the development of addiction.
In my group, we transpose experimental paradigms from animal models to humans to establish translational evidence for abnormalities that had been deemed critical for the development and persistence of drug addiction. We have also been able to link previously unconnected areas of research such as immunology and metabolic sciences with drug addiction, enhancing the possibility of the development of more effective treatments. I strongly believe that a holistic perspective is important because the most substantial health burden arising from drug addiction lies not in the direct effects of drug intoxication, but in the secondary effects, it has on physical health. My ambition, therefore, is to continue using an interdisciplinary, translational approach in the search for effective treatments for drug addiction, a disorder for which successful treatment has been largely lacking.
Karen leads the Drug Addiction Research Group>>