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UC Davis Health System

The role of dopamine in ADHD is the topic of the next MIND Institute lecture

Nora Volkow Courtesy of NIH
Nora Volkow

Posted Nov. 2, 2011

Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, will discuss "ADHD: Attention and Motivation Deficit Disorder" during the next UC Davis MIND Institute Distinguished Lecturer Series presentation.

The lecture will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 9, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the MIND Institute auditorium at 2825 50th St., Sacramento.

A renowned neuroscientist who pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects of drugs and their addictive properties, Volkow has made important contributions to the neurobiology of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Her imaging studies have documented changes in the dopamine system affecting the actions of frontal brain regions involved with motivation, drive and pleasure.

Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter — that is, it's a type of chemical produced within the brain that transmits signals between brain cells. It has many functions in the brain, including important roles in punishment and reward, behavior, cognition, voluntary movement, motivation, sleep, mood, attention, working memory and learning.

Volkow's research has shown that lowered dopamine production and a resulting lowered sensitivity to rewards play crucial roles in behaviors associated with ADHD. Her studies have further suggested that the ADHD drug Ritalin (methylphenidate)works by increasing the brain's production of dopamine. The next step for her team is examining how genetics generate dopamine reward pathways.

A native of Mexico, Volkow earned her medical degree from the National University of Mexico and completed her psychiatric residency at New York University. She spent most of her career at the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, where she held several leadership positions while also serving as a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and associate dean of the Medical School at the State University of New York-Stony Brook. She became director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health in 2003.

About the UC Davis MIND Institute

The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif., was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where parents, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments, and eventual preventions and cures for neurodevelopmental disorders. The institute has major research efforts in autism, Tourette syndrome, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). More information about the Distinguished Lecturer Series, including opportunities to view previous presentations, is available on the institute's website.

Future Distinguished Lecturer Series speakers include:

  • Dec. 14: Carla J. Shatz, director of Bio-X, Stanford University's pioneering interdisciplinary biosciences program, who will discuss "Releasing the Brake on Synaptic Plasticity: Immune Genes Moonlighting in Neurons."
  • Jan. 11: Evan Eichler of the University of Washington, who will speak on "Developmental Delay and Human Copy Number Variation."
  • Feb. 8: Ricardo Dolmetsch of Stanford University, who will discuss "Using iPS Cells and Mouse Models to Study Autism."

All Distinguished Lecturer Series presentations are free and open to the public, with no reservations required. The MIND Institute Resource Center, specializing in information and resources relating to neurodevelopmental disorders and related conditions, is open one hour before and 30 minutes after each presentation.