My Journey: 1. A Career in Neuroscience

Outlines my neuroscience career, from a three-year Postdoctoral Fellowship with Nobel Laureate Arvid Carlsson in Sweden to running my own research laboratory for 14 years in the UK. Our laboratory’s  research was focused on the regulation and function of brain dopamine systems, with a particular interest in addiction. In 2000, I closed my laboratory, as I did not think that neuroscience research was helping people overcome addiction. (3,492 words)


1. Learning About Drugs and the Brain

In the third year of my Psychology undergraduate degree at the City of London Polytechnic (now London Guildhall University) in the mid-1970s, I did not know whether I wanted to go on to become a Clinical Psychologist or conduct research in Psychopharmacology (study of brain function, and the effects of drugs on brain and behaviour).

I loved my undergraduate Abnormal Psychology course—although I now hate the words ‘abnormal’ psychology—and decided that I ultimately wanted to help people overcome psychological problems.

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‘Addiction is a Medical Disorder’: No Way!

In my last blog, I described how I spent the first 25 years of my career as a neuroscientist studying brain function. After working in Sweden and the USA, I returned to the UK to set up my own neuroscience laboratory in the Department of Psychology, University of Reading in 1986. Six years later, I moved the laboratory to the Department of Psychology, University of Wales Swansea (later Swansea University).

At the time, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the USA was receiving large sums of government money to fund neuroscience research focused on drug and alcohol addiction. NIDA considered addiction to be a brain disease and addictive drugs were thought to ‘hijack’ the brain’s reward system, which was thought to use dopamine as a neurotransmitter. 

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