Investigating the Biology of Drug Addiction

As far back as she can remember, science fascinated Lucia Carvelli, Ph.D. During childhood in her native Italy, Carvelli said she was more interested in dissecting a chicken than learning how her mother seasoned or baked it.

“I am the youngest in my family, and my older sisters were kind of afraid of me because I didn’t have a problem cutting things open,” she joked. Now she’s an associate professor of neuroscience in the Wilkes Honors College, and a researcher in the FAU Brain Institute with a secondary appointment in the College of Medicine.

During her post-doctoral training in pharmacology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Carvelli landed in a lab investigating the dopamine transporter, a type of protein, and its relationship to drug abuse and addiction among amphetamine users.

Amphetamines, such as Adderall, are central nervous system stimulants used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions.

Carvelli’s research, funded for five years by the National Institutes of Health, is investigating the molecular mechanisms that make adult animals remember the effects caused by amphetamine during prenatal development. She has found that if worm embryos are exposed to amphetamines, they respond more acutely as adults — which could shed light on human predisposition for addiction.

Soon, she’ll teach an advanced-level class in the science of addiction. “Our students are excited to participate in the cutting-edge neuroscience research in her laboratory,” said Ellen Goldey, Ph.D., dean of the Honors College.

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 Last Modified 3/9/18