Drug, alcohol & mental health research

Thomas R. Insel, MD, is the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and a distinguished psychiatrist and neuroscientist (see neuroscience).

Prior to this appointment, he was the Director of the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center at Emory University School of Medicine, where he also served as founding director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, a science and technology center that has developed an interdisciplinary consortium for research and education at eight Atlanta colleges and universities. Dr. Insell is a graduate of Boston University’s College of Liberal Arts and its Medical School. He has served on 10 professional editorial boards and is a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Dr. Insell has been recognized for his contributions to psychiatry and neuroscience from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), the Society for Biological Psychiatry, and the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS).


Dr. Ting-Kai Li was appointed to the position of the Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in November 2002.

Born in Nanjing, China, Dr. Li earned his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and his M.D. from Harvard University. He completed his residency training at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, where he was named chief medical resident in 1965.

Dr. Li received his research training at Harvard University Medical School and conducted research at the Nobel Medical Research and Karolinska Institutes in Stockholm, Sweden before becoming deputy director of the department of biochemistry at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. He joined the faculty at Indiana University as professor of medicine and biochemistry in 1971. He subsequently was named the school’s John B. Hickam Professor of Medicine and Professor of Biochemistry and, later, Distinguished Professor of Medicine. In 1985 he became director of the Indiana Alcohol Research Center (IARC) at the Indiana University School of Medicine, where he also was the Associate Dean for Research. Dr. Li is also the recipient of Honorary D.Sc. degrees awarded by Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine (1998) and by Indiana University and Purdue University (2003).

Throughout his distinguished research career, Dr. Li has been at the center of advances that have transformed both the way alcoholism is understood and the means of investigating alcohol’s effects on the body and brain. A major focus of Dr. Li’s research has been to characterize the structure and functional characteristics of the multiple genetic variants of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), the enzyme that catalyzes the first step in the metabolism of ethanol, and the differences among individuals in the physiology of these enzymes. Dr. Li also pioneered the development of animal models in which marked differences in the level of voluntary alcohol consumption could be observed, paralleling the same inborn variation seen in human behavior. The development of these animal lines helped cement the once radical notion that alcohol consumption behavior was genetically influenced.

Dr. Li is the author of more than 400 journal articles and book chapters, has been invited to deliver many major lectureships in countries all over the world, and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards for his scientific accomplishments, including the Jellinek Award, the James B. Isaacson Award for Research in Chemical Dependency Diseases and the R. Brinkley Smithers Distinguished Science Award. Dr. Li has also served in many prominent leadership and advisory positions including past President of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA), and as a member of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH. Dr. Li was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1999 and is an honorary fellow of the United Kingdom’s Society for the Study of Addiction.


Nora D. Volkow, M.D., became Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in May 2003. An international leader in drug addiction research and brain imaging, she is a recognized expert on the brain’s dopamine system.

Training: Psychiatry

Treatment Specialties: Drug and alcohol addiction imaging studies, attention-deficit hyper-activity disorder (ADHD), and aging studies.

Research Interests: Imaging studies of drug and alcohol addiction in the human brain. Studies of aging, obesity and ADHD in the human brain.

Dr. Volkow received her B.A. from the Modern American School in Mexico City, her M.D. from the National University of Mexico in Mexico City, and her postdoctoral training in psychiatry at New York University. In addition to Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and State University of New York (SUNY)-Stony Brook, she has worked at the University of Texas Medical School and Sainte Anne Psychiatric Hospital in Paris, France.