Yale SCOR (Specialized Center of Research) to Develop Gender-Sensitive Treatment for Tobacco Dependence

About the Yale SCOR

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States. Women, compared to men, have poorer rates of smoking cessation, exacerbated health risks, and FDA-approved medications for smoking cessation may not be as effective for women or have emerging limits due to side effects.

The Yale-SCOR, funded by the Office of Research on Women’s Health and the National Institute of Drug Abuse, brings together leading basic and clinical science experts to establish an interdisciplinary and translational program of research aimed at identifying novel therapeutics to address the critical health disparity faced by female smokers.  To go to the center's website, please click here.

SCOR Leadership

Sherry McKee, PhD

Sherry A. McKee, Ph.D., Yale SCOR Director.  Dr. McKee is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Yale Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory at the Yale University School of Medicine. Much of Dr. McKee’s work has been directed at understanding why women have more difficulty quitting smoking than men, with a particular focus on the relationship between negative affect (stress, depression) and smoking behavior. Dr. McKee’s transdisciplinary work utilizes various methodologies including human laboratory paradigms, clinical trials, survey research, and epidemiological research to uncover the mechanisms underlying poor smoking outcomes and to translate these findings into improved interventions. Dr. McKee is the PI on research grants to examine how stress and negative affect influence smoking behavior in women and men (RL1DA02857, R21DA017234, Women’s Health Research at Yale’s Women’s Health Investigator Program) and has published extensively on topics pertaining to women’s health and tobacco. She has developed human laboratory models to screen smoking cessation medications for their effect on stress reactivity, and currently consults to other laboratories on the use of her smoking lapse models. Dr. McKee has received awards for her research contributions from the Society of Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, NIDA, APA, and the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Carolyn M. Mazure, PhDCarolyn M. Mazure, PhD - Scientific Director, Yale SCOR
Carolyn M. Mazure, PhD - Scientific Director, Yale SCOR

Carolyn M. Mazure, Ph.D. , Yale SCOR Scientific Director. Dr. Mazure is Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, and the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at Yale. As a clinical researcher, her investigative efforts have focused on gender differences in predictors of illness onset and treatment response with an emphasis on depression and nicotine dependence. Dr. Mazure is currently the Director of Women’s Health Research at Yale, Yale’s university-wide interdisciplinary program on health and gender. Begun in 1998, this Yale program has been responsible for initiating research in women’s health and providing millions of dollars in pilot funds to Yale investigators. In directing this program, which has won awards as a national model for interdisciplinary research on women’s health, Dr. Mazure is responsible for generating new areas for interdisciplinary investigations in women's health throughout the Yale University School of Medicine and in collaborations nationally, and for enhancing communication regarding women’s health research locally, regionally, and nationally. Dr. Mazure also directs the Division of Women’s Behavioral Health which provides research coordination and intellectual leadership for all Department of Psychiatry research pertaining to women’s health and sex/gender-related investigation. Dr. Mazure is the PI for the NIH ORWH/NIDA-funded Yale Faculty Training Grant on Women and Addictive Behaviors (BIRCWH Award) which provides interdisciplinary training through mentoring, coaching, and team science experience for entry-level faculty focused on women’s health and addictive behaviors; and is an investigator on a number of other NIH grants. She was the Scientific Director for the Yale-SCOR on Sex, Stress, and Cocaine Addiction (PI: Sinha) which explicated the interactions between gender-specific factors and stress mechanisms in the development and perpetuation of cocaine addiction; PI for the NIH Common Fund Grant on Interdisciplinary Research Education (RL5DA024858) which provided the interdisciplinary research and educational structure for over 50 scientists within the consortium; and Core PI for the Sex-Specific Factors Core of the NCI/NIAAA/NIDA-funded Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (P50AA015632) which focused on the investigation of tobacco dependence and on understanding risk factors for treatment failure.

Scientific Advisory Board:

  • Neil Grunberg, Ph.D. - Professor of Medical & Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
  • Caryn Lerman, Ph.D. - Mary W. Calkins Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Interim Director of the Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania
  • Edythe London, Ph.D. - Thomas P. and Katherine K. Pike Professor of Addiction Studies, Professor of Psychiatry and Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Maxine L. Stitzer, Ph.D. - Professor of Behavioral Biology, John Hopkins University School of Medicine

Center Aims & Studies


  1. Evaluate the role of the noradrenergic system and its interactions with cholinergic and dopaminergic systems, in stress-induced smoking relapse and nicotine-based reinforcement, and use these findings to inform and expedite the development of gender-sensitive therapeutics for smoking cessation.
  2. Mentor junior investigators in conducting interdisciplinary translational research on tobacco use and women’s health through training opportunities, including “clerkships” with SCOR PIs, and pilot funding.
  3. Be a national resource to invigorate and galvanize the study of sex and gender differences in relation to smoking by providing expert consultation; supporting faculty training awards; mining national data on gender, smoking and health outcomes to inform health policy; and expanding our current program of local and national community outreach.

Research Studies

Marina Picciotto, PhDMarina Picciotto, PhD - Principal Investigator, Study I

"Acetylcholine-Norepinephrine Interactions and Their Implications for the Effects of Nicotine in Reinforcement and Stress Reactivity"

Principal Investigator: Marina Picciotto, Ph.D./ Co-Investigator: Yann S. Mineur, Ph.D.

The primary aims of Project 1 are to identify the brain areas regulated by noradrenergic agents  and nicotinic drugs under conditions related to stress-reactivity, and to determine whether stimulation of the noradrenergic system can decrease stress reactivity and dopamine dependent behaviors in a hypercholinergic model of increased stress reactivity in male and female mice. This project will also determine whether the effects of noradrenergic agents on anxiety and nicotine reinforcement depend on expression of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, the primary target of nicotine in the brain.

Kelly Cosgrove, PhDKelly Cosgrove, PhD - Principal Investigator, Study II

"Sex Differences in Dopamine Release in Tobacco Smokers" 

Principal Investigator: Kelly P. Cosgrove, Ph.D.

The primary aims of Project 2 are to use PET brain imagining to determine 1) if there are sex differences in dopamine release in healthy tobacco smokers, 2) whether noradrenergic agents  differentially attenuate dopamine release between male and female tobacco smokers, and, 3) the relationship between changes in dopamine release and reward, negative affect and inhibitory control.

"Effect of an Alpha-2a Adrenergic Agonist on Stress-Induced Smoking and Smoking Reinforcement: An Examination of Mechanisms and Clinical Outcomes by Gender"

Principal Investigator: Sherry A. McKee, Ph.D./ Co-Investigators: Mehmet Sofuoglu, M.D.Andrea H. Weinberger, Ph.D.

The primary aim of Project 3 is to conduct a Phase II double-blind, placebo-controlled study to examine gender differences in the effect of noradrenergic agents to 1) counteract stress-induced effects on smoking behavior and smoking-related reinforcement in the laboratory and 2) improve clinical outcomes during a subsequent brief smoking cessation treatment. In addition, Project 3 will examine potential gender differences in mechanisms underlying stress precipitated smoking lapse and smoking-related reinforcement (e.g., craving, mood, cardiovascular reactivity, HPA axis reactivity, catecholamines, cognitive function). 

Yale-SCOR Pilot Project Program

Yale-SCOR Pilot Project Program supports promising new research that has the potential to advance women’s health and tobacco use by demonstrating direct practical benefit for the treatment of female smokers and the generation of feasibility data for external funding applications. Pilot Project support will be awarded for studies related to the development of gender-sensitive treatments for smoking especially those that advance women’s health regarding tobacco use, represent a new direction in sex- and gender-difference research in tobacco use, and use an interdisciplinary perspective. The Yale-SCOR Pilot Project Program will be run in collaboration with the Women’s Health Research at Yale Pilot Project Program.

Dr. Mazure, the Scientific Director of the Yale-SCOR, has directed the Pilot Project Program at Women’s Health Research at Yale for over 14 years. Every year, in response to their Request for Applications, WHRY receives a wide array of research proposals from Yale investigators, many of whom collaborate with scientists across the nation and around the world. Since its inception in 1998, more than $4.4 million in “seed” money has been awarded and has resulted in nearly $50 million in new external grants for further research.

Get Involved

  • If you are interested in participating in a smoking cessation study, please call our research coordinator, Meaghan at 203-737-2783
  • If you are student, trainee, or faculty member at Yale and interested in research pertaining to women & tobacco please email Andrea Weinberger
  • If you represent a community group interested in learning more about smoking cessation please email Andrea Weinberger