Addiction is a disorder of decisions. All of us sometimes find it hard to “do the right thing”: to make choices aligned with our own long-term goals and the obligations of family and society. But for some people, short-term allures such as drugs, alcohol, food, or gambling increasingly overcome their capacity for self-control. Motivation becomes focused on risky, destructive behaviors; other activities needed for a healthy, balanced life are pushed aside.

Addiction is an emergency: for addicted people, their families, their communities and the nation as a whole. Drug overdose deaths in the US have been increasing exponentially in recent years - including over 100,000 in 2021 alone - with many more lives ruined.

There are no easy solutions to this crisis. Some important therapies and interventions do exist to help treat addiction (for help with these, please see https://dsaam.org). But for many people they are not enough, and there is a critical need for new treatments and approaches.

Our mission is to provide the fundamental scientific advances that make novel therapies possible. We use state-of-the-art technologies to gain new insights into how brain circuits can make appropriate decisions, and how they are disturbed by drugs. By revealing such mechanisms we aim to identify new ways to help addicted people, within the next 5-10 years - or sooner. These may include new molecular targets for medications, or new circuit components to target with non-invasive brain stimulation.

Thank you for visiting our website. Please use the links below to explore further our exciting research. You can make a donation to support our work here, or contact me for additional information.

Josh Berke, Division Chief. [email protected]


Research Leaders in our Division:

Kevin Bender  (UCSF Profiles)
The Bender Lab investigates mechanisms by which neuromodulators and ion channels shape neuronal processing, and how dysfunctions in these mechanisms contribute to brain disorders including addiction.

Josh Berke  (UCSF Profiles)
The Berke Lab studies neural mechanisms underlying reward-related learning and motivated decision-making, and how these are altered in neurological & psychiatric disorders especially drug addiction.

Andrew Kayser  (UCSF Profiles)
The Kayser Lab studies the cognitive neuroscience of self-regulation. They use functional MRI, pharmacology, EEG, and other tools in order to define -and influence - processes underlying decision-making in the human brain.

Elyssa Margolis  (UCSF Profiles)
The Margolis Lab investigates how opioids act upon specific neural circuits to drive experiences of reward or punishment, and alter motivation.

Vijay Namboodiri  (UCSF Profiles)
Research in the Nam lab focuses on the biological algorithms and neuronal network mechanisms underlying associative learning, memory and decision-making, and how these mechanisms go awry in diseases such as addiction.

Dorit Ron  (UCSF Profiles)
The Ron Lab elucidates molecular neuroadaptations that occur in the adult brain in response to alcohol exposure. The goal is to identify novel targets that could be developed as therapeutics to treat alcohol abuse disorders including excessive alcohol intake, seeking and relapse.


Other affiliated faculty:

Alexandra Nelson

Robert Edwards

Vikaas Sohal

Loren Frank

Howard Fields (emeritus)