Gather to Commemorate Nobel Laureate Axelrod
Luminaries from the fields of neuroscience and mental
health will gather at the National Institutes of Health
(NIH) on Monday, May 23, to celebrate the life and achievements
of one of their most honored colleagues, the late Nobel
Laureate Julius Axelrod, Ph.D. Dr. Axelrod, known to
his friends as "Julie," spent most of his 50 years as
an NIH scientist at the National Institute of Mental
Health, (NIMH) which will host the symposium, Celebrating
"NIH is proud to have been Dr. Axelrod's scientific
and intellectual home for the half century he spent
conducting novel and successful research on a wide array
of subjects," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "The
symposium is a small way of commemorating his achievements
and celebrating his memory."
Dr. Axelrod, who died in December 2004 at the age of
92, did his early work at NIMH on the metabolism of
lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and other psychoactive
drugs. He proceeded to revolutionize the field of pineal
gland research, discovering that melatonin is the gland's
key hormone. He also made key discoveries about the
regulation and interaction of stress hormones. But he
is probably best known for his research in the early
1960's on brain chemistry, which has become fundamental
to our understanding of depression and anxiety disorders.
His research described the "re-uptake" mechanism in
brain cells, which regulates the levels of neurotransmitters
available for communication between neurons (in fact,
Dr. Axelrod coined the phrase "re-uptake inhibitor").
These findings led to the development of modern antidepressant
medications — Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
(SSRIs ) — and to a 1970 Nobel Prize in Physiology
or Medicine for Dr. Axelrod and two other researchers.
Dr. Axelrod's curiosity and enthusiasm inspired him
to investigate many topics in science, in addition to
the brain. He studied the tissue distribution and metabolism
of caffeine, amphetamines, ephedrine, and narcotic drugs.
Prior to his discoveries, little was known about how
these drugs worked in the body. Early in his career,
prior to receiving his doctorate, Dr. Axelrod discovered
the pain-relieving properties of acetaminophen, better
known by its brand name, Tylenol.
"The Celebrating Julie symposium will reunite
many of Julie's former students, colleagues, and friends.
Among them are many of today's leaders of neuroscience.
I look forward to hearing about some outstanding recent
discoveries — there really is no better way to
celebrate Julie," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel,
The symposium will take place from 8:25 a.m. to 5:00
p.m. at Masur Auditorium in the Clinical Center at NIH.
NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., and NIMH Director
Thomas R. Insel, M.D., will preside over the meeting.
Among the prestigious group of speakers will be Solomon
H. Snyder, M.D., from Johns Hopkins University, and
Paul Greengard, Ph.D., at Rockefeller University who
received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine
in 2000 for discoveries linked to how neurotransmitters
signal across synapses in the brain. The symposium will
also highlight recent progress built on by Dr. Axelrod's
contributions. These include the role of naturally occurring
marijuana-like substances and their receptors in the
brain; how the brain responds to stress; neural communications
underlying appetite and addiction; and how individuals
react differently to drugs depending on their genetic
Overflow rooms for NIH staff will be available in Natcher
Auditorium. The symposium can also be viewed online
For more information, or reasonable accommodations,
please contact Jennifer Loukissas (phone: 301-443-4536,
Visitor parking is limited at NIH. Visitors are encouraged
to use the Metro (Medical Center stop on the NIH campus,
Red Line). The NIH, like all Federal Government facilities,
has instituted security measures to ensure the safety
of NIH employees, patients, and visitors. For information
about access to the campus and parking, please visit http://www.nih.gov/about/visitor/index.htm.
NIMH is part of the National Institutes of Health
(NIH), the Federal Government's primary agency for
biomedical and behavioral research. NIH is a component
of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.