The UC Irvine Center for Addiction Neuroscience (ICAN) was established to bring together addiction research faculty from across UCI for the first time, to identify areas of collaboration to leverage for highly competitive research funding opportunities. In addition to advancing the national and international footprint of UCI’s substance abuse and dependence research, ICAN seeks to: enhance the education of students (undergraduate and graduate) and postdoctoral trainees in the field of addiction research, increase public awareness on matters of addiction through specialized outreach programs, develop patient care/outreach initiatives, and attract additional philanthropic support to enhance research discoveries at UCI.
ICAN director, Professor and Chair Marcelo A. Wood, Neurobiology and Behavior, and Co-Director Professor Frances M. Leslie, Pharmacology and Dean of Graduate Division, have brought together a collection of expert faculty from different departments in the Ayala School of Biological Sciences, the School of Medicine, the School of Social Sciences, and the Program in Public Health. “The new UC Irvine Center for Addiction Neuroscience will bring together outstanding researchers to tackle the most important open questions in addiction research and provide a conduit to the general public to increase scientific literacy in addiction,” said Professor Wood. Among the immediate goals of ICAN will be to apply for a training grant to support graduate student and postdoctoral training, establish a distinguished seminar series, and apply for various National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funding mechanisms that will help ICAN ascend to a high level of global preeminence.
While ICAN will serve as the university’s primary research resource to the general public for educational and outreach activities concerning addiction, its primary responsibility will be to foster a synergistic, innovative, and multidisciplinary approach to addiction research. As such, ICAN has highlighted several areas of research that will help them secure NIDA funding. These include: epigenetic mechanisms involved in establishing persistent drug seeking behavior, system/circuit mechanisms involved in the transition from recreational drug taking to drug dependence, mechanisms involved in addiction to opioid analgesic pain medication, and mechanisms involved in endogenous cannabinoid lipid signaling. “Building from the exceptional neuroscience research being performed at UCI, we are very excited to add a component specifically focused on substance abuse and dependence. Addiction remains an immense global health problem that continues to be treated as a behavioral issue rather than a true brain disorder,” said Professor Wood.
Professor Wood and colleagues have established ICAN with a vision to pursue the most difficult questions in addiction research, offer the highest quality addiction neuroscience education, and provide significant public education and scientific literacy through outreach programs. With the help and support of the faculty and staff at UCI, students, alumni, and the community, there is no doubt that ICAN will accomplish their long-term goal of becoming a world renowned center known for cutting-edge discoveries and advances in addiction research.