Thomas Kash, PhD, was recognized by the Society for Neuroscience for his “creative research on the neural basis of addiction-related behaviors and its illumination of potential paths forward for understanding and treating the pathological behaviors associated with addiction.”

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) presented the Jacob P. Waletzky Award to Thomas Kash, PhD, at Neuroscience 2019, SfN’s annual meeting and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health. The award, supported by the Waletzky Award Prize Fund and the Waletzky Family, is given to a young scientist whose independent research has led to significant conceptual and empirical contributions to the understanding of drug addiction. Recipients receive a $25,000 prize.

“The Society recognizes the importance of Dr. Kash’s creative research on the neural basis of addiction-related behaviors and its illumination of potential paths forward for understanding and treating the pathological behaviors associated with addiction,” said SfN President Diane Lipscombe.

Kash, the John Andrews Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology at the UNC School of Medicine, is a member of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, where his lab studies how stress and drugs of abuse affect neuronal circuits and modify addiction-related behaviors. His work takes a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach, combining physiology, pharmacology, optogenetics, and behavioral research. This includes the adaptation of genetically encoded tools for directly observing neuron activity, techniques that he has used to reveal an essential serotonin signaling circuit governing fear and anxiety. Kash has also dissected how neuropeptides regulate neurons that mediate stress-related behaviors and has integrated his findings in rodents with outcomes in non-human primate models.

In addition to his critical work on alcohol abuse, Kash serves as vice chair of faculty development in the department of pharmacology at the UNC School of Medicine. He is an avid mentor, having trained many postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. Kash has received several other recognitions, including the White House Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the NARSAD Independent Investigator Award.

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.