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Erin Calipari - Vanderbilt University. NASHVILLE, TN, US

Erin Calipari

Associate Professor of Pharmacology | Vanderbilt University


Expert in the neuroscience of mental illness and addiction, including gender differences.






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Calipari received her PhD in Neuroscience in 2013 in the laboratory of Sara Jones at Wake Forest University School of Medicine where she studied how self-administered drugs altered dopaminergic function to drive addictive behaviors. She then went on to complete her postdoctoral training with Eric Nestler at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she used circuit probing techniques to understand the temporally specific neural signals that underlie motivation and reward learning. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University in the Department of Pharmacology. Her independent work seeks to characterize and modulate the precise circuits in the brain that underlie both adaptive and maladaptive processes in reward, motivation, and associative learning.

Areas of Expertise (15)


adaptive processes

self-administered drugs


Addiction and Recovery

Brain Behavior

Medicine and Drugs




Addictive Behavior

associative learning


neural signals

maladaptive processes

Accomplishments (5)

Daniel X. Freedman Award

2019, Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

DP1 Avenir Award in Genetics and Epigenetics

2019, National Institute on Drug Abuse

NARSAD Young Investigator Award

2018, Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

Young Investigator Award

2017, College on Problems of Drug Use and Dependence

The Nancy Rutledge Zhaniser Award

2017, ASPET

Education (4)

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: Postdoctoral Training 2017

Advisor, Eric J Nestler, MD, Ph.D.

Wake Forest School of Medicine: Ph.D, Neuroscience 2013

Advisor, Sara R. Jones, Ph.D

University of Massachusetts, Amherst: B.S., Biology 2009

With honors

University of Massachusetts, Amherst: B.S., Psychology 2009

With honors

Affiliations (3)

  • Frontiers in Psychiatry (Addictive Disorders) : Associate Editor
  • American College of Neuropsychopharmacology : ACNP Associate Membership
  • Neuropsychopharmacology : Editorial Board

Selected Media Appearances (10)

The FDA Plans to Lower Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes: Why That Matters

Prevention  online


Erin Calipari, Ph.D., a professor and addiction specialist at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, also has concerns that a reduction in nicotine levels will lead to tobacco users smoking more. “From the research that I do that looks at the factors that influence reinforcement behavior—the probability of doing something over and over again—when you cut the dose in half with drugs, individuals will do whatever they’re doing to get twice as much,” she says.

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Drug Addiction and How It Affects the Brain

NewsChannel 5  tv


On today's MorningLine, we talk addiction but from a different perspective - how the brain gets addicted. Dr. Erin Calipari, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt, joins us to explain how addiction work and the many ways it will affect our brain.

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Vanderbilt addiction researcher talks CDC prescription opioid guidelines

WKRN  tv


“I think what’s happening now is we’re looking and saying, okay, we still have an opiate problem, we’re still seeing overdose deaths that are incredibly high. During the pandemic, they’ve only continued to rise and I think that they’re saying, Okay, well, people are having a hard time getting pain medication, but it isn’t stopping the issue that we have with addiction,” said Dr. Erin Calipari, an assistant professor in the Vanderbilt University Department of Pharmacology. “So how do we combat those? And I think it’s a really, really difficult problem.”

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Can you be 'addicted' to Facebook, Instagram? Experts share how to tell if your social media use is problematic.

Yahoo! News  


While plenty of people were throwing around the terms "addicted" and "addiction" when talking about the social media platforms, it's tricky to actually call regular social media usage an "addiction," Erin Calipari, a professor and addiction specialist at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. Still, she says, some people definitely display "addictive behaviors" when it comes to using these platforms — and there's a reason for that.

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This Combination of Medicines May Help Heavy-Drinking Smokers Quit

Verywell Health  online


“The findings point to a complex problem facing the addiction field: many people suffer from multiple addictions that are occurring at the same time and treating these co-occurring addictions may be different and more difficult than treating either addiction alone,” Erin Calipari, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Verywell. “These findings are really important for clinicians that are treating individuals with substance use disorders.”

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Pandemic mixed with the holidays is a cocktail for relapse, creating new addicts

Scripps  tv


Now, new research from Vanderbilt University shows not only are more people drinking alcohol and abusing other drugs during the pandemic, but that this increase could create new addicts as well. “You’re seeing an increase in drinking, in drug use in people at home. When the pandemic’s over, this isn’t going to go away," said Erin Calipari, Ph.D., with the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research.

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Clinton Foundation works to put naloxone in recovery homes as opioid epidemic is overshadowed by COVID-19 pandemic

USA Today  online


Stress from job losses can push some to drug use or knock recovering addicts off the path to sobriety, said Erin Calipari, principal investigator at the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research. “When you start looking at data across the country, you see there’s a massive spike in overdoses,” Calipari said. “This is above and beyond what we saw with the opioid epidemic. It’s getting much, much worse.”

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Stress over COVID-19 pandemic creating new problems for people with substance use disorders

NewsChannel 5  tv


As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues, in Nashville, the opioid epidemic is getting worse. "We're also seeing a new population of people who are now suffering with substance abuse disorder and this isn't going to go away when the pandemic goes away," said Erin Calipari, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine. Erin Calipari studies how stress creates instability for people with substance use disorders.

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A Device That Heats Tobacco, But Doesn't Burn It, Can Now Be Sold in the U.S. Here's What to Know About IQOS



Erin Calipari, an assistant professor of pharmacology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, says it’s important to cut down on harmful byproducts of smoking, but it’s also important to remember that nicotine is an addictive drug on its own, and is not without risks. “Nicotine is a stimulant. Stimulants have effects on the brain, and they have cardiovascular effects as well,” Calipari says. “We make a huge deal about the tar and the byproducts in cigarettes, but the drug addiction is incredibly important as well. Just because this minimizes other aversive outcomes doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

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Meet the Calipari who holds court at Vanderbilt lab

Tennessean  online


Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari loves his older daughter, her homemade spaghetti and her pursuit of life-changing science. And he was really looking forward to seeing her when she traveled to the University of Kentucky campus last month to give a presentation about her addiction research.

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Selected Event Appearances (5)

Activity-dependent changes in the dopamine transporter underlie addiction vulnerability in females.

ISN Satellite Brain in Flux Meeting  Montreal, Québec, Canada


Dopaminergic mechanisms underlying sex differences in valence-based decision making

Gordon Conference on Catecholamines  Newry, ME


Developing novel preclinical models to study addiction in females

College on Problems of Drug Dependence  San Antonio, TX


Sex differences in behavioral strategies: the role of the neural encoding of stimulus value

Washington University in St. Louis  St. Louis, MO


The neural basis of sex differences in value-based decision making

Canadian Neuroscience Meeting (CAN)  Montreal, Québec, Canada


Selected Articles (5)

The role of the neuropeptide PEN receptor, GPR83, in the reward pathway: Relationship to sex-differences


Amanda K Fakira, Emily G Peck, Yutong Liu, Lindsay M Lueptow, Nikita A Trimbake, Ming-Hu Han, Erin S Calipari, Lakshmi A Devi

2019 GPR83, the receptor for the neuropeptide PEN, exhibits high expression in the nucleus accumbens of the human and rodent brain, suggesting that it plays a role in modulating the mesolimbic reward pathway. However, the cell-type specific expression of GPR83, its functional impact in the reward pathway, and in drug reward-learning has not been fully explored. Using GPR83/eGFP mice, we show high GPR83 expression on cholinergic interneurons in the nucleus accumbens and moderate expression on ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons.

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Cues play a critical role in estrous cycle-dependent enhancement of cocaine reinforcement


Amy R. Johnson, Kimberly C. Thibeault, Alberto J. Lopez, Emily G. Peck, L. Paul Sands, Christina M. Sanders, Munir Gunes Kutlu & Erin S. Calipari

2019 While preclinical work has aimed to outline the neural mechanisms of drug addiction, it has overwhelmingly focused on male subjects. There has been a push in recent years to incorporate females into existing addiction models; however, males and females often have different behavioral strategies, making it important to not only include females, but to develop models that assess the factors that comprise female drug addiction.

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Sex Differences in Value-Based Decision Making Underlie Substance Use Disorders in Females

Alcohol and Alcoholism

Jennifer E Zachry, Amy R Johnson, Erin S Calipari

2019 For many psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and addiction, sex is a critical biological variable and women represent a particularly vulnerable population (Piccinelli and Wilkinson, 2000; Becker et al., 2017). While sex differences in the pervasiveness and prognosis of these disorders have long been known to exist, there are few instances where approaches to pharmacological treatment of these disorders differ between the sexes, which likely contributes to ineffective treatments in women.

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Synaptic Microtubule-Associated Protein EB3 and SRC Phosphorylation Mediate Structural and Behavioral Adaptations During Withdrawal From Cocaine Self-Administration

Journal of Neuroscience

Erin S. Calipari, Arthur Godino, Marine Salery, Diane M. Damez-Werno, Michael E. Cahill, Craig T. Werner, Amy M. Gancarz, Emily G. Peck, Zahra Jlayer, Jacqui Rabkin, Joseph A. Landry, Alexander C.W. Smith, Paola Defilippi, Paul J. Kenny, Yasmin L. Hurd, Rachael L. Neve, David M. Dietz and Eric J. Nestler

2019 Addictive behaviors, including relapse, are thought to depend in part on long-lasting drug-induced adaptations in dendritic spine signaling and morphology in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). While the influence of activity-dependent actin remodeling in these phenomena has been studied extensively, the role of microtubules and associated proteins remains poorly understood. We report that pharmacological inhibition of microtubule polymerization in the NAc inhibited locomotor sensitization to cocaine and contextual reward learning.

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Shared Behavioral and Neurocircuitry Disruptions in Drug Addiction, Obesity, and Binge Eating Disorder: Focus on Group I mGluRs in the Mesolimbic Dopamine Pathway

ACS Chemical Neuroscience

Samantha E Yohn, Jordan Galbraith, Erin S Calipari, P Jeffrey Conn

2019 Accumulated data from clinical and preclinical studies suggest that, in drug addiction and states of overeating, such as obesity and binge eating disorder (BED), there is an imbalance in circuits that are critical for motivation, reward saliency, executive function, and self-control. Central to these pathologies and the extensive topic of this Review are the aberrations in dopamine (DA) and glutamate (Glu) within the mesolimbic pathway.

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