Welcome to the Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research

Discovering Novel Treatments for Substance Abuse Disorders


The Pearson Center combines biomedical research with clinical applications to fight alcoholism and addiction. The Pearson Center is located on The Scripps Research Institute campus in La Jolla and is co-founded by Dr. George F. Koob and Dr. Barbara J. Mason.

The prospects of enhancing traditional treatment of alcoholism, addiction, and relapse through novel pharmaceuticals have never been more promising.

Through the generous support of individual, corporate, and public donors, The Scripps Research Institute has already made major strides toward understanding and treating alcoholism and addiction.

Scientific Co-Founders of the Pearson Center


Founding Donor Mark Pearson

My gift is in memory of my family members and friends whom I have lost to alcoholism and addiction, and on behalf of other family members and friends who have suffered indirectly from the devastating consequences of this disease.

It is my hope that by generating greater public awareness and additional financial support for biomedical and clinical research, future generations of families will be spared from the devastating effects of alcoholism and addiction.
— Mark Pearson, founding donor of The Pearson Center

The Affiliated Laboratories of the Pearson Center

Laura M. Bohn, Ph.D.
TSRI, Jupiter, FL

Pain accompanies nearly every disease state and prolonged opioid therapies can lead to substance abuse and addiction.  Our laboratory is working to develop safer and more effective therapeutics to treat pain and to avoid unwanted side effects.

Candice Contet, Ph.D.
TSRI, La Jolla, CA

The Contet laboratory aims to identify the source of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) being released in the central nucleus of the amygdala during ethanol withdrawal. While CRF release in this brain region is known to play a critical role in the emergence of negative affect and ensuing escalation of alcohol consumption, the cell body location of implicated CRF neurons still remains to be determined.

Olivier George, Ph.D.
TSRI, La Jolla, CA

Dr. George is working on understanding how alcohol, nicotine and drugs of abuse affect the brain and on the development of novel therapeutic approaches, including new medications. "The brain is truly one of the last unknown territories in science, studying it is a little bit like sailing a ship to an unknown world."

Remi Martin-Fardon, Ph.D.
TSRI, La Jolla, CA

A major challenge for the successful treatment of drug addiction is the long-lasting susceptibility to relapse during abstinence from drug use. The goal of our studies is to understand the role of the orexin (Orx/Hcrt) system in cocaine and alcohol seeking.

Barbara Mason, Ph.D.
TSRI, La Jolla, CA

The focus of the research programs in the Laboratory of Clinical Psychopharmacology is the clinical evaluation of potential medications for protracted abstinence and relapse prevention in alcohol use disorder and related disorders such as nicotine and cannabis use disorders.

Courtney Miller, Ph.D.
TSRI, Jupiter, FL

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder. Research in the Miller Laboratory is focused on developing new medications to prevent relapse. Efforts are also focused on understanding how prenatal exposure to prescription pain medications alters brain development.

Marisa Roberto, Ph.D.
TSRI, La Jolla, CA

Alcoholism is a chronic, relapsing illness and available treatments are insufficient. Studies in my laboratory aim to understand the specific neuronal mechanisms that underlie synaptic and/or molecular changes the influence the development of dependence on alcohol.

Paul Schweitzer, Ph.D.
TSRI, La Jolla, CA

Research in our laboratory focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of action of substances of abuse and their interaction with neurotransmitter systems. Our work is particularly centered on cannabinoids and the modulatory role of neuropeptides.

Michael Taffe, Ph.D.
TSRI, La Jolla, CA

Research in the Taffe Laboratory focuses on determining how physical exercise and anti-drug vaccination strategies may be used at different points in the substance addiction arc to prevent or ameliorate negative effects on health.

Eric Zorrilla, Ph.D.
TSRI, La Jolla, CA

The Zorrilla laboratory seeks to understand the neural substrates of motivated behavior and of the regulatory control of energy balance using interdisciplinary molecular, biochemical, neuroanatomical, pharmacological, physiological, behavioral and statistical techniques.

Affiliated Resources

Post-Doctoral Training Grant

Principal Investigator, Michael Taffe, Ph.D.

Co-Investigator, Eric Zorilla, Ph.D.

Integrative Neurosciences Initiative (INIA) - Neuroimmune

Alcohol Center Grant

Executive Director, Barbara J. Mason

Scientific Director, Marisa Roberto

The Larry Parsons Travel Award in Alcoholism and Addiction Research


Pearson Family Chair in Alcoholism and Addiction Research

Endowed Chair, Barbara J. Mason

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Research Success of Yesterday

Learn about all of the past successes of the Pearson Center, including published works and major breakthroughs.

Studies and Trials of Today

View current alcohol research studies open for enrollment at the Pearson Center.

Solutions of Tomorrow

The Pearson Center is at the cutting edge of alcohol and addiction research, with exciting new findings.