Nora Volkow

Neuroscientist Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the NIH, will apply a lens of addiction to the obesity epidemic.

“We already have the tools to address the problems of obesity and addiction.” — Nora Volkow


Nora Volkow is a world leader in the neurobiology of diseases of reward and self-control such as addiction and obesity. Nora was born in Mexico City, where she lived until she completed medical school. While training as a psychiatrist in New York City, she started doing research with brain imaging technologies to study how drugs affect the human brain. Nora’s research has been instrumental in demonstrating that addiction is a brain disease that undermines the function of circuits that underlie reward, motivation and self-control—and in identifying overlapping circuitry disruptions in obesity. Nora is currently the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at NIH, which oversees most of the world’s research on drug abuse and addiction.

Brain in Progress: Why Teens Can’t Always Resist Temptation
Nora’s guest column on the TEDMED Blog


Beautiful Boy Sheff, D. Mariner Books, 2009.
Phantoms in the Brain Ramachandran, V.S. William Morrow, 1999.
Saturday McEwan, I. Anchor, 2006.
The Schopenhauer Cure Yalom, I. Harper Perennial, 2006.
In the Garden of Beasts Larson, E. Crown, 2012.
Big Brother Shriver L. Harper, 2013.
The Echo Maker Powers, R. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
The Last Life Massud, C. Mariner Books, 2000.
Look at Me Egan, J. Anchor; Reprint edition, 2009.
State of Wonder Pachet, A. HarperCollins, 2011.
We have to Talk about Kevin Shriver, L. Counterpoint, 2011.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers Boo, K. Random House, 2012.
The Devil Tree Kosinski, J. Grove Press, 2007.


(in the order she cites them in her talk)

Addiction and brain reward and antireward pathways
Gardner EL. Adv Psychosom Med. 2011;30:22-60.

Roles for nigrostriatal—not just mesocorticolimbic—dopamine in reward and addiction
Wise RA. Trends Neurosci. 2009;32:517–524.

Decreased dopamine D2 receptor availability is associated with reduced frontal metabolism in cocaine abusers
Volkow ND, Fowler JS, Wang GJ, et al. Synapse. 1993;14:169–177.

D2R DNA transfer into the nucleus accumbens attenuates cocaine self-administration in rats
Thanos PK, Michaelides M, Umegaki H, Volkow ND. Synapse. 2008;62:481-6.

Altered dopamine modulation of inhibition in the prefrontal cortex of cocaine-sensitized rat Neuropsychopharmacology. Kroener S, Lavin A. 2010;35:2292-304.

Association between class III obesity (BMI of 40-59 kg/m2) and mortality: a pooled analysis of 20 prospective studies
Kitahara CM, Flint AJ, Berrington de Gonzalez A, et al. PLoS Med. 2014.

Imaging of brain dopamine pathways: implications for understanding obesity
Wang GJ, Volkow ND, Thanos PK, Fowler JS. J Addict Med. 2009;3:8-18.

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite
Kessler, D. 2010

Is fast food addictive?
Garber AK, Lustig RH. Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2011;4:146-62.

Behavioral and neural correlates of delay of gratification 40 years later
Casey BJ et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2011;108:14998-5003.


The addictive dimensionality of obesity
Volkow ND, et al. Biol Psychiatry. 2013;73:811–8.

How can drug addiction help us understand obesity?
Volkow ND & RA Wise. Nature Neuroscience. 2005;8:555–560.