Photo of George Koob, Ph.D.Dr. George F. Koob, an internationally-recognized expert on alcohol and stress, and the neurobiology of alcohol and drug addiction, began his tenure as Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) on January 27, 2014. As NIAAA Director, Dr. Koob oversees a wide range of alcohol-related research, including genetics, neuroscience, epidemiology, prevention, and treatment.

Even before beginning as NIAAA Director, Dr. Koob had a longstanding relationship with the Institute.  Throughout his career, he received funding from NIAAA and other NIH institutes for many significant research projects.  Importantly, he also led a 10-year, NIAAA-funded, multi-institutional consortium dedicated to identifying the molecular basis of alcoholism.

Dr. Koob received his Ph.D. in Behavioral Physiology from Johns Hopkins University in 1972. He spent most of his career at the Scripps Research Institute, where he served as the Director of the Alcohol Research Center, and as Professor and Chair of the Scripps’ Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders.  Early in his career, he served as a researcher in the Department of Neurophysiology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and in the Arthur Vining Davis Center for Behavioral Neurobiology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.  He was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge.

Dr. Koob began his career studying the neurobiology of emotion, including how the brain processes reward and stress. His contributions advanced our understanding of the anatomical connections of emotional systems and the neurochemistry of emotional function.  This background led to investigations into why certain alcohol drinkers transition to addiction while others do not, and how the brain and body respond to alcohol consumption.

Dr. Koob’s work has significantly broadened our understanding of the neurocircuitry associated with the acute reinforcing effects of alcohol and other drugs of abuse, and of the neuroadaptations of the reward and stress neurocircuits that lead to addiction.  In addition, he has validated key animal models for addiction associated with alcohol and drugs and identified the major role that brain stress systems play in the development of addiction. Dr. Koob is the author of more than 650 peer-reviewed scientific papers, and the co-author of The Neurobiology of Addiction, a comprehensive review of the most critical neurobiology of addiction research conducted over the past 50 years.

Dr. Koob is the recipient of many prestigious honors and awards, including the insignia of Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor) from the government of France, for his contribution to the development of scientific collaborations between France and the United States.  [View the video: World-class scientist Dr Koob receives the Legion of Honor.] He also received the 2016 Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) Seixas Award for his extraordinary service in advancing alcohol research. Additional honors include the Daniel Efron Award for excellence in research and Axelrod Mentorship Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology; the Distinguished Investigator and Marlatt Mentorship Awards from the RSA; the Mark Keller Award from NIAAA; and the Neuronal Plasticity Prize of the Foundation Ipsen.


Ph.D., Behavioral Physiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, 1972
B.S., Zoology, Pennsylvania State University, 1969

Professional Experience

2006-2014 Professor and Chair, Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders, The Scripps Research Institute.
1995-2014 Director, Alcohol Research Center, The Scripps Research Institute.
1990-2006 Professor, Molecular and Integrative Neurosciences Department (formerly the Department of Neuropharmacology), The Scripps Research Institute.
1983-1989 Associate Member (with tenure), Division of Preclinical Neuroscience and Endocrinology, The Scripps Research Institute.
1977-1983 Staff Scientist, Arthur Vining Davis Center for Behavioral Neurobiology, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
1975-1977 Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Susan D. Iversen and Dr. Leslie Iversen, University of Cambridge, Department of Experimental Psychology, Medical Research Council, Neurochemical Pharmacology Unit. Studies in: catecholamines and behavior.
1972-1975 Staff Scientist, Department of Neurophysiology, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Studies in: brain lesions, brain stimulation, behavior, neurochemistry, psychopharmacology.
1969-1972 Predoctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins University, Department of Environmental Medicine. Training in: physiology, behavior, neurochemistry, environmental physiology.
1965-1969 Undergraduate, Pennsylvania State University, Training in: zoology and psychology.

Awards & Professional Activities

Phi Sigma Society

Alpha Zeta Fraternity

Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award, Revelle College, University of California, San Diego (1988)

Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award, Muir College, University of California, San Diego (1989)

Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award, Warren College, University of California, San Diego (1992, 1993, 1995)

Daniel H. Efron Award, Excellence in Research in Neuropsychopharmacology, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (1991)

Highly Cited Researcher, Institute for Scientific Information (2001)

Distinguished Investigator Award, Research Society on Alcoholism (2002)

ASAM Annual Award, American Society of Addiction Medicine (2002)

Tharp Award, James H. Tharp Trust Committee, Research Society on Alcoholism (2002)

Most Valuable Professor, Muir College, University of California, San Diego (2004)

Mark Keller Award, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2004)

Faculty Excellence Award, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California, San Diego (2006)

Honorary Doctorate of Science, Pennsylvania State University (2009)

Outstanding UCSD Professor Award, Panhellenic Council, University of California, San Diego (2010)

Marlatt Mentorship Award, Research Society on Alcoholism (2012)

Honorary Doctorate, Université Bordeaux Segalen, France (2013)

Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor), from the government of France (2016)

Seixas Award for Service, Research Society on Alcoholism (2016) 

Selected References

Koob, GF, Drugs of abuse: anatomy, pharmacology and function of reward pathways, Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 13 (1992) 177-184.

Koob, GF and Le Moal, M. Drug abuse: hedonic homeostatic dysregulation, Science, 278 (1997) 52-58.

Koob, GF and Le Moal, M. Drug addiction, dysregulation of reward, and allostasis, Neuropsychopharmacology, 24 (2001) 97-129.

Koob, GF. Alcoholism: allostasis and beyond. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 27 (2003) 232–243.

Koob, GF and Le Moal, M. Plasticity of reward neurocircuitry and the ‘dark side’ of drug addiction, Nature Neuroscience, 8 (2005) 1442-1444.

Heilig M, Koob GF. A key role for corticotropin-releasing factor in alcohol dependence. Trends in Neurosciences, 2007, 30:399-406.

Koob GF, Le Moal M. Addiction and the brain antireward system. Annual Review of Psychology, 2008, 59:29-53.

Koob GF. A role for brain stress systems in addiction. Neuron, 2008, 59:11-34.

Koob GF, Le Moal M. Neurobiological mechanisms for opponent motivational processes in addiction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, 2008, 363:3113-3123.

Koob GF, Lloyd GK, Mason BJ. Development of pharmacotherapies for drug addiction: a Rosetta Stone approach. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, 2009, 8:500-515.

Vendruscolo LF, et al. Corticosteroid-dependent plasticity mediates compulsive alcohol drinking in rats. Journal of Neuroscience, 2012, 32(22):7563–7571.

George O, et al. Recruitment of medial prefrontal cortex neurons during alcohol withdrawal predicts cognitive impairment and excessive alcohol drinking. PNAS, 2012, 109(44):18156-61.

Koob GF, Le Moal M. Neurobiology of Addiction [ISBN: 0124192394]. Academic Press, London, 2006. 

Related Links

Director's Reports to the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

News Releases and Advisories

NIAAA Director's Testimony before Congress (Archives)