Faces of Drug Abuse Research: Yasmin L Hurd, Ph.D.

YasminHurd.jpgYasmin L. Hurd, Ph.D. is Professor of Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics as well as Psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Medical Center (PubMed; Hurd Lab; Department; Research Crossroads) .
As is overviewed on the "research" tab of her webpage, Professor Hurd has longstanding interests in mesocorticolimbic areas that are affected by drugs of abuse. Her areas of concentration include the in vivo neurochemical responses to drugs, the influence of drugs on fetal brain development and the molecular and biochemical changes that might be associated with dependence.
Professor Hurd obtained her doctorate in 1989 from the Karolinska...Okay, right there your brain should go 'click'.


The application of intra cerebral microdialysis techniques to neuropharmacological investigations was developed in large part by Urban Ungerstedt at the Karolinska Institutet (PubMed) with things really heating up in the early to mid eighties. Professor Hurd was working with Ungerstedt as a graduate student in the mid to late eighties, producing some of the earlier work on dopaminergic responses to psychomotor stimulant drugs of abuse. These studies remained a continuing theme of her work through postdoctoral training and her independent research career. It is overwhelmingly likely that if you work with in vivo neurochemical responses to drugs of abuse you cite Professor Hurd....frequently.
The developmental work follows a plan that is pretty easy to grasp, and is something in which drug abuse researchers are very much interested. If kids are exposed in utero via maternal drug use, does this leave them at increased risk for cognitive or behavioral problems including drug use later in life? Does drug exposure during the critical adolescent brain development windows make one more likely to go on to develop problematic drug use? Professor Hurd's work gets at lasting changes in brain function which may underlie adult behavioral phenomena associated with prior drug exposure. Parents such as myself pay particular attention to the adolescent work, you may be assured.
Dr. Hurd's molecular studies have mostly been related to neuropeptide regulation and expression in the wake of both neonatal and adult exposure to abused drugs. The most sustained research focii have been heroin, cocaine and cannabis.
Wow, that was an interesting review to do- obviously I only write a minimal overview for the general audience but for those of you in the field, click the PubMed link at the top. Professor Hurd has accomplished a LOT in her career to date an although I've known the name quite well from her work I don't know that I've ever sat down and reviewed her entire body of papers. I mention from time to time that the drug abuse fields are not what you would think of as saturated with the latest and greatest molecular and genetic techniques. Professor Hurd has consistently been at the leading edge of the most neurobiological side of the drug abuse fields from graduate training through her current position. One cannot help but think of her as a lioness of our field. Thank you, Professor Hurd, for your sustained commitment to furthering understanding of the effects of recreationally abused drugs.
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Update (02/09/09): A comment over at Young Female Scientist offers a personal perspective. PainMan says:

Drugmonkey was recently profiling Yasmin Hurd. I've met her and this woman is a Superstar's Superstar. I mean The Total Package. she's black AND female, but after spending ten minutes with her you forget that.



This series of entries (Carl L. Hart, Ph.D.; Chanda K. Akins, Ph.D.) was motivated by DNLee's call for a new blog Carnival concerned with Diversity in Science. Submit your entries here.

4 responses so far

  • CHCH says:

    hey dm - any thoughts on the article in psychopharm this news piece refers to?
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7876425.stm

  • Pinus says:

    Interesting post DM. I actually have been reading a # of Dr. Hurd's papers recently. I had never really stopped to look at the body of work since 'day 1'. Very impressive.

  • DNLee says:

    another great post. I had to break out my endocrinology and physiology text books to refresh my memory of some of those words. I've been living blissfully in organismal biology land for so long.

  • newyorky says:

    SHe's a heck of scientist, and that recent PNAS paper she published is a lot of fun to read.. I've always been curious of her background. An african american woman who did graduate work in sweden? karolinska no less with Ungerstedt. Rather interesting person I suppose.

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