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Erin Calipari - Vanderbilt University. NASHVILLE, TN, US

Erin Calipari Erin Calipari

Assistant Professor of Pharmacology | Vanderbilt University


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





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Erin Calipari Research Overview – Addiction Immune System Shows Promise in Fight Against Opioid Cravings Women’s hormones play role in drug addiction, higher relapse rates



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)

maladaptive processes

neural signals


associative learning

Addictive Behavior





Medicine and Drugs

Brain Behavior

Addiction and Recovery


self-administered drugs

adaptive 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 (3)

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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Why women in nursing are more inclined to addiction than men

Atlanta Journal-Constitution  online


According to Erin Calipari, an assistant professor of pharmacology at the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research, the most critical finding of the study might be that while women are a population segment highly vulnerable to substance abuse, studies have focused pretty much entirely on men. Naturally, none of the hormones that can influence addiction or relapse would show up in an all-male pool of study subjects.

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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 Neuropharmacology

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


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 Neuropsychopharmacologyvolume

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


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


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


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


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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