Integrative Neuroscience Branch (INB)

What We Do:

The INB supports research to identify the neural circuits and synaptic responses underlying drug addiction to understand the mechanisms of action, the neuroplastic adaptations, and the functional outcomes that occur as a consequence of substance use disorders throughout the addictive process. This includes the regulation of neurotransmission under drug-free, drug-exposed, and drug-withdrawn conditions, and the influences of modifiers such as sex and gender, stress, pain, and co-occurring disorders , including HIV/AIDS.

Program Areas:

The grant portfolios maintained within the INB delineate the fundamental neurobiological mechanisms of addiction using a variety of scientific approaches, thereby enabling the identification of the structural and functional neuroadaptations due to drug use at the morphometric, electrophysiological, neurochemical, and behavioral levels of analysis. These include:

  • Regulation of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission, at the molecular, cellular and circuit levels, including the processes of signal transduction, the coupling of receptors to second messenger systems, trafficking of regulatory elements within the neuron and neuroplasticity induced by chronic intermittent exposure to addictive substances and withdrawal from chronic use.
  • The study of persistent neuroadaptations that occur as a consequence of repeated intermittent drug exposure, including structural and functional changes in the brain associated with long-term drug use and drug withdrawal, neurotoxicity, and neuroprotection.
  • Neuron-glia interactions in the CNS and their modification by addictive substances.
  • Neuroendocrine modulation of neural systems and their functions, including the study of neurosteroids, neuroactive steroids, gender-related brain function, endogenous peptides, and hormones of the stress axis.
  • Neuroimmune modulation of the brain as it is related to drug use disorders, including the influences of neuroAIDS and drug-induced neuroinflammation.
  • Morphological and functional changes in the brain brought about by pain and recurrent opiate administration as it is related to drug use disorders and addiction.
  • Bioinformatic and computational approaches to understand the transition from voluntary to compulsive drug use.

Staff Research Interests:

  • Tristan McClure-Begley, Ph.D. - Branch Chief
    (301) 451-1467
    Dr. Tristan McClure-Begley joins NIDA in 2022 as the new Chief of the Integrative Neuroscience Branch. Tristan previously served as a Program Manager in the Biological Technologies Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) since 2017. His scientific breadth and depth span many fields including molecular biology, proteomics, pharmaceutical chemistry, psychology, and neuroscience. His scientific pursuits at DARPA have involved novel chemical biology approaches to treating disease and injury and developing methods to accelerate and protect learning and executive functions. Examples of innovative programs he developed at DARPA include, the Biostasis program, which leverages pharmacological chaperoning to protect biological systems for trauma care, the Panacea program in systems pharmacology for understanding the human interactome for pain and stress, the Focused Pharma program to accelerate treatments for neuropsychiatric conditions, and the Assessing Immune Memory (AIM) program to understand mechanisms of persistent immunity. Tristan came to DARPA from the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he was a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. His academic studies focused on molecular mechanisms of perturbations to complex biological systems, particularly drugs of abuse, toxins, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Prior to his faculty position, Tristan was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Marina Picciotto in the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, and an alumnus of the Yale/NIDA Neuroproteomics Center. He received his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Integrative Physiology and a Graduate Certificate in Behavioral Genetics from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Tristan is an avid hiker and alpine skier; he tries to spend as much time as possible outside with his wife Cindy and their son Liam, and he loves all things gastronomic in nature (cooking, eating, fermenting, growing herbs and heirloom produce).
  • Olivier Berton, Ph.D. - Program Officer
    (301) 827-7771
    Dr. Berton’s grant portfolio encompasses basic research on cells & circuits in models of addiction and reward, with an emphasis on projects employing genetics or neuro-engineering approaches to interrogate and modulate circuit function. Dr Berton also serves as NIDA point of contact for the BRAIN initiative, where he manages a portfolio of grants pertaining to the cell census network, integrated circuits analyses of and tool dissemination efforts.
    Dr. Berton completed his doctoral training in Neuroscience at the University of Bordeaux, France and his postdoctoral training at UT Southwestern Medical Center under mentoring of Eric J Nestler. Prior to joining the NIH Dr Berton was a principal investigator conducting basic research for over 15 years both in Pharma and Academia. He directed a NIH-funded research laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania School of medicine, investigating the neurobiology of affective and social behaviors. He is a longstanding member of the society for Neuroscience and an Associate of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Dr Berton Research has been cited over 10 000 times and his contribution to the field of behavioral neuroscience has been recognized by several awards, including the Independent Investigator Award from the Brain & Behavior Foundation and Awards from the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO), NARSAD and the Michael J Fox Foundation.
  • Roger Sorensen, Ph.D., M.P.A. - Program Officer
    (301) 443-3205
    Dr. Sorensen’s programmatic interests broadly concern studies of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the functional changes in neuronal excitability, synaptic plasticity, homeostasis, and communication within neural circuits and networks as a consequence of substance use disorders and addiction. Of additional interest are the effects of psychoactive drugs on the functional interactions between neurons and glial cells in their regulation of neuronal activity. Dr. Sorensen manages the Pathways to Independence Award [K99/R00] program in basic research, and is co-Chair of the NIDA-NIAAA Neuroscience Workgroup.
    Dr. Sorensen received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Maryland, College Park, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Indiana University, Bloomington, and a M.P.A. in healthcare management and policy from Rutgers University-Camden, NJ. Prior to joining the NIH, he held a faculty position at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia. Dr. Sorensen came to the NIH in 2000 as a Presidential Management Intern [now Fellow] and Program Official for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). He joined NIDA in 2007. He contributes to various programs and planning activities across the NIH including, the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience, the BRAIN Initiative, and the Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions [SPARC] programs.
  • Yu (Woody) Lin, M.D., Ph.D. - Program Officer
    (301) 435-1318
    Dr. Lin’s program emphasizes clinical and translational research in the areas of pain and of HIV/AIDS. He focuses on chronic pain and prescription opiate abuse and on the interaction of addictive drugs on cognitive function in patients with HIV/AIDS. His portfolio also encompasses endogenous homeostatic mechanisms and neuroplasticity in the brains of patients as a result of chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, or prescription opiate abuse and research in health disparities.
    Dr. Lin has been a NIDA Program Official since 2001. Prior to joining the NIH, he was an anesthesiologist, a physician scientist in Pain Medicine, in Complementary and Integrative Health and a neuroscience investigator. He received his M.D. from the Norman Bethune University of Medical Sciences in Changchun, China, and his Ph.D. from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. He also studied and held a faculty position at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing, China. He is a member of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the Society for Neuroscience, and the NIH Pain Consortium. He serves as the Lead Coordinator for NIDA’s Asian American Pacific Islander work group.
  • Dr. Sunila Nair, Ph.D. - Program Officer
    (301) 827-5842
    Dr. Sunila Nair completed a Ph.D. in neuropharmacology at the University of Cincinnati followed by postdoctoral fellowships at the Intramural Research Program at NIDA and the University of Washington. Prior to joining the Integrative Neuroscience Branch (Division of Neurobiology and Behavior) at the NIDA headquarters, Sunila was Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington. She directed a research program focused on determining how the functional activity of neurons in the brain, specifically in the limbic, cortical and hypothalamic circuitry is controlled and altered in response to addictive drugs and non-drug reinforcers. Her research program was funded by the NIH, Brain and Behavior Research Institute (NARSAD Young Investigator Award) and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Institute at the University of Washington. More recently, her research has focused on sex differences in addiction; specifically, on the organizational and activational effects of gonadal hormones, and dimorphism in cell-type specific alterations in neural circuits that drive relapse to drug-seeking behaviors.
  • Shang-Yi Anne Tsai, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.Program Officer
    (301) 827-5842
    Dr. Tsai joined NIDA DNB in 2018 and serves as a Program Director in the Integrative Neuroscience Branch. Her program emphasizes on basic research in molecular neurobiology, neural plasticity and neuroinflammation. Dr. Tsai received her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Toxicology from Tulane university, where she studied the anti-inflammatory mechanisms of glucocorticoid in the respiratory system. She then joined NIDA Intramural Research Program as a postdoctoral fellow in 2002 and became a Research Fellow in 2006 and a Staff Scientist in 2009. Her research interests include elucidating the neurobiological actions and biochemical characterizations of the sigma-1 receptor as a ligand-regulated molecular chaperone protein, with an emphasis on synaptic plasticity and cocaine-induced neuroadaptation. In addition to her many years of service to NIDA IRP, Dr. Tsai served as a NIDA’s Scientific Review Officer where she established Special Emphasis Panels to review research grant applications in the area of neurobiological mechanisms of addiction.