History of Neuroscience and Neuropharmacology in the Department

The Department of Pharmacology has a long and distinguished history of excellence in neuroscience and neuropharmacology. Over the recent decades, research by Faculty in the Department contributed to groundbreaking scientific discoveries shaping the modern face of these fields, and laid foundations for novel treatments of neurological disease.

Paul Greengard, Nobel Laureate for Physiology or Medicine in 2000, served as Professor in the Department of Pharmacology from 1968 to 1983. While at Yale, Dr. Greengard made seminal discoveries that have shaped the face of modern neuroscience, identifying the receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine and discovering key cellular signaling pathways that regulate neuroplasticity, explaining basic mechanisms of learning and memory.

J. Murdoch Richie, who served as Chairman of the Department from 1971 – 1974 pioneered the use of neurotoxins to prove the existence of discrete ion channel sites in neurons, thereby defining our modern understanding of nerve conductions and excitability.

William Douglas, who joined the Department in 1968, discovered crucial mechanisms of stimulus-secretion coupling in the nervous system, proving that stimulus-induced increases in intracellular calcium are a prerequisite for neurotransmitter release.

In the 1970’s Robert Byck, in collaboration with Dr. Richie, made groundbreaking contributions to addiction research by demonstrating specific neuromodulatory effects of cannabinoids in the CNS and describing the highly addictive properties of smoked cocaine. Dr. Byck also pioneered studies about the neurotoxicity of neurotransmitters such as glutamate.