Marquette University News Release

Marquette researcher receives $2.6 million grant to fund brain studies

June 24, 2014

Research study will examine stress-induced relapse in cocaine addiction


Dr. John Mantsch, professor and chair of biomedical sciences in Marquette University’s College of Health Sciences, has been awarded a $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that will fund research on the effects of stress in drug addiction relapse.

“Despite decades of research, there is still no FDA-approved medication for the treatment of cocaine addiction,” Mantsch said. “This is due in part to fundamental gaps in understanding neurobiological processes that promote drug relapse, which we aim to address.”

Mantsch’s co-principal investigator is Dr. Cecilia Hillard, professor and director of the neuroscience research center at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“This grant award is further evidence of emerging institutional and regional strength in neuroscience research,” said Dr. William Cullinan, dean of the College of Health Sciences at Marquette and director of Marquette’s Integrative Neuroscience Research Center. “Given the current competitive landscape for funding at NIH, the award is a testament both to the importance of research coming out of these labs and to the value of collaborative relationships among these investigators.”

According to Mantsch, the research – funded over five years – has three specific aims. The first is to study endocannabinoid receptors – molecules that transmit the effects of the brain’s intrinsic marijuana-like system and become highly activated following stress. The second is to examine the effects of stress on cocaine-seeking behavior and mechanisms of regulation of that behavior. Finally, the investigators aim to determine how stress-induced alterations in these neural circuits lead to relapse into cocaine use, focusing within a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex, which is critical to higher-order cognitive and executive functions including decision-making.

Mantsch and colleagues believe the series of studies has implications beyond understanding drug-seeking behavior and addiction.

“By defining mechanisms by which stress alters regulation of the brain’s motivation and reward system, we will be in a position to better understand the wide range of neuropsychiatric conditions in which this same system is altered,” Mantsch said.

Dr. Mantsch is available for media interviews. To schedule an interview, please contact Jesse Lee, senior communications specialist for the College of Health Sciences, at (414) 288-4984 or

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About Jesse Lee

Jesse Lee

Jesse is a senior communication specialist for the College of Health Sciences in the Office of Marketing and Communication. Contact Jesse at (414) 288-4984 or View all posts by .