Irina Esterlis PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and of Diagnostic Radiology; Director, Molecular Imaging Program, NCPTSD, VA

Research Interests

Neuroreceptor imaging; Mood disorders; Tobacco addiction

Current Projects

Examination of the beta2-nAChR system in bipolar depression and relevance to the persistent tobacco smoking.

Imaging glutamatergic system in depression via PET and MRS to determine role of glutamate and mGluR5 in depression and associated cognitive difficulties.

Imaging ACh changes in the brain in living humans.


Research Summary

There is a high comorbidity between psychiatric illness and tobacco smoking, with common denominator of cognitive difficulties. The goal of our research is to examine the neurochemical changes, tested by PET brain imaging or Magnetic Resonance techniques, associated with mood disorders and comorbid tobacco addiction and the underlying cognitive decrements. We aim to determine specific systems, such as the nicotinic and glutamatergic, that may be a target for new pharmacotherapies to aid in alleviating mood and cognitive difficulties, and thus aiding with smoking cessation.


Selected Publications

  • In Vivo Ketamine-Induced Changes in [11C]ABP688 Binding to Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor Subtype 5. DeLorenzo C, DellaGioia N, Bloch M, Sanacora G, Nabulsi N, Abdallah C, Yang J, Wen R, Mann JJ, Krystal JH, Parsey RV, Carson RE, Esterlis I. Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Jul 10. pii: S0006-3223(14)00501-0. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.06.024.
  • In vivo evidence for ß2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit upregulation in smokers as compared with nonsmokers with schizophrenia. Esterlis I, Ranganathan M, Bois F, Pittman B, Picciotto MR, Shearer L, Anticevic A, Carlson J, Niciu MJ, Cosgrove KP, D'Souza DC. Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Sep 15;76(6):495-502. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.11.001. Epub 2013 Nov 13.

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