Two professors receive $1.7 million grant for neuroscience research on substance use disorder in women


Dr. John Mantsch, chair and professor of biomedical sciences, and Dr. Matthew Hearing, assistant professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Health Sciences, received a $1.7 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health for their neuroscientific study on substance use disorder in women.

The project, titled “Estrogen regulation of the prefrontal cortex and drug seeking,” aims to identify the role biological sex – specifically the hormone estrogen – plays in disordered substance use and relapse.


The pair identified and will further study a novel mechanism in the brain through which estrogen acutely promotes drug seeking by affecting the prefrontal cortex in those with previous substance abuse disorders.

“Substance use disorders are among society’s most pressing challenges, yet effective interventions are lacking,” Mantsch said. “Considering the chronically relapsing nature of substance abuse disorders, understanding the factors that contribute to relapse risk is a critical research question.”

“We know that on average, woman experience greater difficulty abstaining and resume substance use for longer periods of time following relapse, and that women are particularly susceptible to relapse during periods of stress,” Hearing said. “While we know that this vulnerability is driven in part by sex hormones, this research could really help us understand how hormonally mediated reproductive and stress brain states intersect to elevate relapse risk.”

“The cutting-edge research of Drs. Mantsch and Hearing continues to address some of our most important societal challenges – mental health disorders – as well as raise the neuroscience research profile of the college and university” said Dr. William E. Cullinan, dean of the College of Health Sciences. “We’re pleased that the National Institutes of Health continues to recognize and fund this valuable addiction research project.”