University of Pittsburgh
October 13, 2015

Pitt’s Yan Dong Earns Award for His Investigation of Addiction

Will receive the Waletzky Award at Neuroscience 2015

Joe Miksch


Cell: 412-997-0314

PITTSBURGH—His research into how drugs such as cocaine can hijack the brain’s circuitry, leading to addiction, has earned University of Pittsburgh neuroscientist Yan Dong the Society for Neuroscience’s Jacob P. Waletzky Award.

I am deeply honored receiving this prestigious award,” Dong says. “I greatly appreciate the Waletzky family for their vision in promoting basic research in drug addiction.”

Dong, associate professor of neuroscience in Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, will receive the $25,000 award at Neuroscience 2015, the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting, which will be held in Chicago Oct. 17-21. The award was established in 2003 and is given annually to a scientist who has conducted research or plans to conduct research in the area of substance abuse and the brain and nervous system.

“Society for Neuroscience is pleased to recognize Dr. Yan Dong and his extraordinary contribution to the field of addiction research,” Society for Neuroscience President Steven Hyman said. “His research has expanded our understanding of brain mechanisms that underlie motivation and how drugs of abuse can impact these mechanisms.” 

Throughout his career, Dong has made great strides in characterizing how drugs of abuse alter the way cells in the brain communicate with each other. Specifically, he has identified that exposure to cocaine produces long-lasting changes in the way that the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens — two brain regions implicated in motivation and reward — talk to each other. Dong also went on to show that these brain changes mediate the relapse to drug-seeking behavior after a period of abstinence. 

Dong earned his PhD at the Chicago Medical School and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University.