Lorenzo Leggio

Lorenzo Leggio, M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc., Chief
Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology (CPN)
*A joint National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Laboratory
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
10 Center Drive (10CRC/15330) MSC 1108
Room 1-5429
Bethesda, MD 20892-1108
telephone: 301.435.9398
Dr. Lorenzo Leggio serves as the Chief of the Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropsychopharmacology, a joint NIAAA and NIDA laboratory. Dr. Leggio received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the Catholic University of Rome and ‘Agostino Gemelli’ hospital, where he also completed residency and received Board Certification in Internal Medicine. He also received a Masters in ‘Alcohol-related diseases and problems’ from the University of Florence. He was a visiting research associate, then postdoctoral research associate in Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University, Providence, RI. In 2010, Dr. Leggio joined the faculty of the Brown University Medical School as Assistant Professor (Research) and Core Faculty at the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (CAAS). Dr. Leggio’s clinical research has been primarily focused on the treatment of alcoholism, with a special emphasis on the role of feeding-related as well as GABAergic pathways; and on the medical consequences of alcoholism, with a special emphasis on alcoholic liver disease. As a Principal Investigator at Brown University, Dr. Leggio received extramural research funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Additionally, he received research funding from the European Foundation for Alcohol Research, Brown University CAAS, ABMRF/The Foundation for Alcohol Research, and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (formerly NARSAD). In June 2012, Dr. Leggio joined the NIAAA and NIDA Intramural Research Programs as a joint Tenure-Track Clinical Investigator and Section Chief. As a licensed physician, Dr. Leggio is also credentialed as Senior Attending Medical Staff at the NIH Clinical Center. Additionally, he is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University (Providence, RI). Dr. Leggio’s lab has pioneered clinical research on the role of neuroendocrine signaling in alcohol-seeking behaviors via human laboratory studies. He has authored or co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has served as a regular reviewer for many journals, reviewer for NIH study sections and other U.S. and international funding agencies. He has served as consultant for FDA advisory panels, and on the editorial boards of addiction-related journals. Dr. Leggio has also served as Chair (Medical/Clinical) of the 2016 Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) Program Committee. Among other awards, he received the 2008 European Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism (ESBRA) Nordmann Award and the 2015 NIAAA Employee Award for Clinical Service.


What we do

Dr. Leggio's CPN laboratory conducts translational and clinical outpatient and inpatient studies in order to identify possible novel medications for addiction. His group uses a combination of state-of-the-art and novel bio behavioral and pharmacological procedures performed under well-controlled human laboratory conditions. Imaging brain techniques, such as fMRI and PET, are also employed. Dr. Leggio and his team are particularly interested in the role of the gut-liver-brain axis in alcohol-seeking behaviors. Specifically, the CPN laboratory is currently investigating the potential role of feeding-related pathways, such as ghrelin, leptin, oxytocin and GLP-1, as possible new neuropharmacological targets for alcoholism treatment. Both preclinical and human approaches are in progress or under development in order to shed light on the possible role of these pathways in alcoholism.

Current Staff


Mary Lee

Mary R. Lee, M.D.
Staff Clinician
telephone: 202-641-6068
Dr. Mary Lee received her medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1989. She completed residency in internal medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and subsequently completed a psychiatric residency at George Washington University. Dr. Lee is board certified in psychiatry, internal medicine and addiction medicine. She joined the CPN laboratory in November of 2012. Her research has focused on the effect of intranasal oxytocin on drug craving, reward learning, and emotional processing in drug dependent and schizophrenic patients. In addition, she has investigated the neurobehavioral effects of genetic polymorphisms, COMT and OPRM, on reward processing in smokers and drug users.  Her current research is on the role of oxytocin in alcohol and drug use disorders and the use of TMS to understand the neurocircuitry of nicotine addiction. She is the PI of a translational and clinical project studying the role of oxytocin in alcoholism for which she received a NIH Bench-to-Bedside (B2B) Award by the Office of Behavioral & Social Sciences Research (OBSSR).
Lisa Farinelli
Lisa A. Farinelli, M.B.A., R.N., B.S.N.
Deputy Chief of Management and Administration
telephone: 301-640-1924
Lisa Farinelli is the Deputy Chief of Management and Administration in the Section on Clinical Psychoneuroendocrinology and Neuropscyopharmacology (CPN). She received her nursing degree from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in New York, NY. She comes to NIAAA well prepared with 20+ years of extensive clinical and management expertise having worked in both the private and public sectors. She received her Masters of Business Administration from the University of Maryland, University College (College Park, MD). She worked at NINDS before joining NIAAA in 2012. As the Manager for Dr. Leggio and his lab, she supervises the clinical and research activity and assumes responsibility for all regulatory compliance efforts toward the CPN missions of conducting clinical inpatient and outpatient proof-of-concept human laboratory studies. She serves as a representative on all collaborations within the NIH as well as outside organizations. Her research interests include theories and principles of motivation, leadership in health care, bioethics and regulatory affairs.
Mehdi Farokhnia
Mehdi Farokhnia, M.D.
Post-Doctoral Fellow
telephone: 301.827.1488
Dr. Mehdi Farokhnia received his medical degree from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in 2012 and joined the CPN section in May 2014. His research has been focused on investigating the neurobiological correlates of psychiatric disorders as potential therapeutic targets.  As a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Dr. Leggio’s lab, Dr. Farokhnia is leading human laboratory studies including a project on the biobehavioral mechanisms of baclofen in reducing alcohol drinking in anxious alcoholic individuals and another project on the effects of ghrelin on alcohol self-administration and reward-related fMRI activation. He is also conducting a human genetic association study focused on the GABAB receptor genes in substance use disorders. Dr. Farokhnia has been the recipient of several awards from American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology, Society for Neuroscience, Research Society on Alcoholism, and International Society of Addiction Medicine.
Sofia Bouhla
Sofia Bouhlal, Ph.D.
Visiting Fellow
telephone: 301-435-9383
Dr. Sofia Bouhlal joined Dr. Leggio’s CPN lab in October 2015. She graduated from the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France, where she received a B.Sc. degree in Life Sciences, Technology and Health, a M.Sc. degree (level 1) in Cell Biology and Physiology and a M.Sc. in Food Sciences, sensoriality and behavior. In 2011, she received a Ph.D. doctoral degree in Food Sciences from the University of Burgundy. In 2012, she joined the NIH as a Visiting Fellow in the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute. Dr. Bouhlal’s skills and expertise in nutrition, food sciences and appetitive behaviors will allow her to significantly contribute to the CPN research agenda while expanding her training on alcohol-related behavioral and medical aspects, with a special emphasis on the role of the gut-liver-brain axis in alcohol-seeking behaviors.
April N. Le, M.Sc.
Technical IRTA Fellow
telephone: 301.827-0308 
April Le joined the CPN section in March 2014. She has a Master’s degree in Pharmacology from the University of Oxford and Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Psychology from the University of California, San Diego, CA. Her background and interests lie in behavioral neuropharmacology where she has experience in drug discovery and development at the molecular and cellular level for the development of human therapeutics, within industry and academic research environments. Her roles at CPN include supporting a study with an experimental ghrelin receptor antagonist and its effects in heavy drinkers as a potential treatment for alcoholism; and conducting wet lab work on feeding-related peptides and cellular signaling. 
Jonathan Amodio
Jonathan P. Amodio, B.Sc.
Post-Bac IRTA Fellow
telephone: 301.827-1487
Jonathan Amodio joined the CPN section in May of 2014. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and a minor in Chemistry. His primary research experience as an undergraduate involved the study of infants with autism with the goal of finding earlier markers for autism. His main responsibilities at CPN include supporting recruitment and screening efforts, as well as a human laboratory study of the GABAB receptor agonist baclofen in anxious alcoholic individuals. Jonathan is also conducting a project on the role of anxiety and depression comorbidities in alcoholism.
Matthew Rohn
Matthew C.H. Rohn, B.Sc.
Post-Bac IRTA Fellow
telephone: 301.827.0330
Matthew Rohn joined CPN in July of 2014, after graduating from Haverford College with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. As part of his degree, he has done extensive research involving small peptides for development towards medical applications. Matthew’s background in Biochemistry and interest in Medicine led him to CPN, where his primary role is to support a translational and clinical investigation of oxytocin and its role in alcoholism.  Matt is also conducting a project on clinical and behavioral differences between treatment versus non-treatment seeking alcoholic individuals.
Andrew Aston
Andrew S. Aston, B.Sc.
Post-Bac IRTA Fellow
telephone: 301-451-6974
Andrew Aston joined CPN in May of 2015. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. As an undergraduate, he conducted research using a nonhuman primate model to investigate the interaction of a variant of the corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) gene and early adverse rearing conditions and its effect on the behavioral and neurochemical stress response. His primary roles at CPN include providing support with recruitment and screening efforts, as well as support with human laboratory studies testing the role of feeding-related pathways in alcohol-seeking behaviors. Andrew is also conducting a project on the role of genetic variants related to stress- and feeding-related pathways in alcoholism.
Alison Daurio
Allison M. Daurio, B.Sc.
Post-Bac IRTA Fellow
telephone: 301.451-6965
Allison Daurio joined CPN in July 2015. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, minor in Chemistry, and concentrations in Cognitive Neuroscience and Molecular and Cellular Biology. Her professional interest lies in understanding cognitive, biological, and social underpinning of externalizing behavior and related psychopathology (e.g. psychopathy, borderline personality disorder and substance use disorders). Allison’s roles in CPN include providing support with recruitment and screening efforts, as well as support with human laboratory studies testing the role of feeding-related pathways in alcohol-seeking behaviors. Allison is also conducting a meta-analytical project on the role of the DRD4 in addiction.
J Temko
Jamie E. Temko, B.Sc.
Post-Bac IRTA Fellow
telephone: 301.402-6094
Jamie Temko joined the CPN Section in July 2015 after graduating from Brown University with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. Her research experience during her undergraduate years involved the study of alcohol-mediated sexual risk-taking in populations of men who have sex with men. Her primary roles at CPN include providing support with recruitment and screening efforts, as well as support with human laboratory studies testing the role of feeding-related pathways in alcohol-seeking behaviors. Jamie is also conducting a project on the comorbidity between mental health, addictions and HCV infection; and a review project on the role of the gut microbiome in addictions.

Adjunct CPN Staff 

Adjunct Staff not supported by CPN NIH IRP
Kim S. Goodyear
Kim S. Goodyear, Ph.D. Candidate
Special Volunteer
telephone: 301-827-0595
Kimberly Goodyear joined the CPN Section in June 2015 as a Special Volunteer.  She is currently a neuroscience doctoral candidate at George Mason University and has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from San Diego State University. Her graduate research focuses on the neural mechanisms involved with decision-making during advice utilization using fMRI and effective connectivity.  Her research at CPN involves investigating the role of metabolic factors and individual differences in alcohol dependent individuals.
Arman V. Terzian, B.Sc.
Special Volunteer
Arman Terzian joined the CPN Section in June 2015 as a Special Volunteer. He graduated from Haverford College (English Major, Pre-Med) in 2014. He is currently working as Analyst for the Advisory Board Company in Washington, D.C, where he is conducting best practice research, client interviews, analyzing findings, and structuring project deliverables.
Off-campus Adjunct Staff not supported by CPN NIH IRP
Carolina L. Haass-Koffler
Carolina L. Haass-Koffler, Pharm.D.
Special Volunteer
Dr. Carolina Haass-Koffler received a doctoral degree in Pharmacy from the University of California, San Francisco (USCF). She was then selected to attend the USCF Pharmaceutical Science Pathway, a unique and innovative curriculum comprised of a multidisciplinary learning environment that combines intensive research experience in pharmacology and drug discovery. She focused her postdoctoral training at the Ernest Gallo, Clinic and Research Center at UCSF on stress circuitries and alcohol addiction in the neuroscience lab of Dr. Antonello Bonci, and in the preclinical medications development lab of Dr. Selena Bartlett. During her neuroscience training at the Gallo Center, she held a concurrent Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics fellowship appointment at the School of Medicine at UCSF, which allowed her to expand the study of stress response integrating pharmacokinetics (PK), pharmacodynamics (PD) and pharmacogenomics (PGx). Dr. Haass-Koffler is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Brown University Center of Alcohol and Addiction Studies (CAAS) - where she is integrating behavioral pharmacology and neuroscience with human laboratory studies. Under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Swift and Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, Dr. Haass-Koffler is leading, as Principal Investigator, a human laboratory randomized controlled study testing the role of mifepristone in yohimbine-induced alcohol craving and alcohol self-administration in alcohol-dependent individuals. In addition, she is completing a series of experiments on the role of the corticotropin releasing factor binding protein (CRF-BP) in alcoholism.
Petra Suchankova Karlsson
Petra Suchankova Karlsson, Ph.D., M.Sc.
Special Volunteer
Dr. Petra Suchankova Karlsson earned a Master in Molecular Life Science Research from King’s College of London, UK; and then a PhD in Pharmacology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Since 2011, she has been working as lecturer and researcher in the pharmacology lab led by Jörgen Engel and Elisabet Jerlhag Holm. Her work has focused on the role of genetic variations of feeding-related pathways (e.g., ghrelin and GLP-1) in alcoholism. Dr. Suchankova Karlsson received the Swedish Brain Foundation postdoc grant for 2013 and joined the NIAAA-NIDA CPN Section in January 2013 as a Guest Researcher. She returned to the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, in September 2013 and continues working with the CPN team as a Research Collaborator. Dr. Suchankova Karlsson received a postdoc grant from the Swedish Society for Medical Research for 2014-2015, which will allow her to further investigate the role of appetitive networks in addiction.
Jared Bollinger
Jared Bollinger, B.Sc., Ph.D. (Clin.) Graduate Student
Special Volunteer
Jared Bollinger was a Post-Bac IRTA fellow in the CPN Section from June 2012 to June 2014. His work in the CPN Section included coordinating resources, recruitment, and assessments for the Section’s inaugural studies involving randomized controlled trials of the GABAB receptor agonist baclofen and the feeding-related peptide ghrelin in alcoholism. After leaving Dr. Leggio’s lab, Jared joined the Uniformed Services University (Bethesda, MD) as a graduate student in Clinical Psychology. He is still collaborating with the CPN Section as a Special Volunteer and is working on the role of aggressive behaviors in alcohol-dependent individuals. 

Current Research Support


The CPN Section is funded jointly by the Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Additional Research Support:
  • Dr. Leggio is the current recipient of a NARSAD Young Investigator grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (baclofen project).
  • Dr. Leggio is one of the two PIs (Co-PI: Dr. Fatemeh Akhlaghi, URI) of an NCATS-funded grant award (funding limited to the extramural site at URI) designed as an NIH-Academia-Industry collaborative project (ghrelin receptor antagonism project)
  • Dr. Lee is the current recipient of an NIH Bench-to-Bedside (B2B) grant award funded by the Office of Behavioral & Social Sciences Research (oxytocin project).

Current Projects

A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Human Laboratory Pilot Study of Baclofen in Anxious Alcoholics

Effects of Ghrelin on Alcohol Administration in Non-Treatment Seeking Heavy Drinkers

A Novel Compound for Alcoholism Treatment: A Translational Strategy

Oxytocin in Alcohol Dependence: A Novel and Translational Approach.



Selected Publications

  1. C.L. Haass-Koffler, E. Aoun, R.M. Swift, S. de la Monte, G.A. Kenna, L. Leggio. Leptin Levels are Reduced by Intravenous Ghrelin Administration and Correlated with Cue-Induced Alcohol Craving. Transl Psychiatry 2015;5:e646
  2. M.L. Lee, L. Leggio. Management of Alcohol Use Disorder in Patients Requiring Liver Transplant. Am J Psychiatry 2015 (in press)
  3. G.A. Kenna, C.L. Haass-Koffler, W.H. Zywiak, S.M. Edwards, M.B. Brickley, R.M. Swift, L. Leggio. Role of the α(1) blocker doxazosin in alcoholism: a proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial. Addict Biol. 2015 [June 2,  Epub ahead of print]
  4. P. Suchankova, J. Yan, M.L. Schwandt, B.L. Stangl, E.C. Caparelli, R. Momenan, E. Jerlhag, J.A. Engel, C.A. Hodgkinson, M. Egli, M.F. Lopez, H.C. Becker, D. Goldman, M. Heilig, V.A. Ramchandani, L. Leggio. The glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor as a potential treatment target in alcohol use disorder: evidence from human genetic association studies and a mouse model of alcohol dependence. Transl Psychiatry. 2015;5:e583
  5. L. Leggio, W.H. Zywiak, S.M. Edwards, J.W. Tidey, R.M. Swift, G.A. Kenna. A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study of baclofen effects in alcoholic smokers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015;232(1):233-43.
  6. M. Ghareeb, L. Leggio, A. El-Kattan, F. Akhlaghi. Development and validation of an UPLC-MS/MS assay for quantitative analysis of the ghrelin receptor inverse agonist PF-5190457 in human or rat plasma and rat brain. Anal Bioanal Chem 2015 ;407(19):5603-13
  7. L. Leggio, W.H. Zywiak, S.R. Fricchione, S.M. Edwards, S.M. de la Monte, R.M. Swift, G.A. Kenna. Intravenous Ghrelin Administration Increases Alcohol Craving in Alcohol-Dependent Heavy Drinkers: A Preliminary Investigation. Biol Psychiatry 2014;76(9): 734-41
  8. G.A. Kenna, W.H. Zywiak, R.M. Swift, J.E. McGeary, J.S. Clifford, J.R. Shoaff, C. Vuittonet, S. Fricchione, M. Brickley, K. Beaucage, C.L. Haass-Koffler, L. Leggio. Ondansetron Reduces Naturalistic Drinking in Nontreatment-Seeking Alcohol-Dependent Individuals with the LL 5'-HTTLPR Genotype: A Laboratory Study. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014;38(6):1567-74.
  9. L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, S. Cardone, A. Nesci, A. Miceli, N. Malandrino, E. Capristo, B. Canestrelli, P. Monteleone, G.A. Kenna, R.M. Swift and G. Addolorato. Ghrelin system in alcohol-dependent subjects: role of plasma ghrelin levels in alcohol drinking and craving. Addiction Biology 2012;17(2):452-64.
  10. G. Addolorato, L. Leggio, A. Ferrulli, S. Cardone, L. Vonghia, A. Mirijello, L. Abenavoli, C. D'Angelo, F. Caputo, A. Zambon, P.S. Haber, G. Gasbarrini. Effectiveness and safety of baclofen for maintenance of alcohol abstinence in alcohol-dependent patients with liver cirrhosis: randomised, double-blind controlled study. Lancet. 2007;370(9603):1915-22.

Section Alumni

  • Steven Edwards, B.S., *Research Assistant: 2010-2012
  • Samuel Fricchione, B.S., *Research Assistant: 2010-2012
  • Christine Goodwin, M.Sc., *Research Volunteer: 2012
  • Eugenia Gurvich, *Undergraduate Student: 2012
  • Allison Feduccia, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Fellow: 2012-2013
  • Jared Bollinger, B.S., Post-Bac IRTA Fellow: 2012-2014
  • Emily Oot, B.A., Technical IRTA Fellow: 2012-2014
  • Lexi Dias, B.S., Post-Bac IRTA Fellow: 2012-2014
  • Petra Suchankova Karlsson, Ph.D., Guest Researcher: 2013
  • Myung Ha Jung, BSN, Special Volunteer: 2013-2014
  • Christian Frable, B.S., Post-Bac IRTA Fellow: 2013-2015
  • Elie Aoun, M.D., **Clinical Resident in Psychiatry (at Brown University): 2013-2016
  • Ashley Blackburn, B.S., Post-Bac IRTA Fellow: 2014-2015
  • Lindsay Arcurio, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Fellow: 2014-2015
  • Mohammad (Omar) Bukhari, B.S., Student in the Summer Internship Program (SIP) in Biomedical Research, 2015
*In Dr. Leggio’s Lab at Brown University before the NIH CPN Lab was created
**Mentored by Dr. Leggio in his capacity as Associate Professor (Adjunct) at Brown University