UM Researcher Receives Top Scientific Honor: Huda Akil, Co-Director of the University of Michigan’s Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute and Gardner C. Quarton Distinguished Professor of Neurosciences in the Department of Psychiatry at the UM Medical School, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors attainable by an American scientist. Akil’s research is aimed at understanding mechanisms of our emotions, including the brain biology of pain, stress, substance abuse and depression. She demonstrated that the brain has an intrinsic ability to actively block pain and was the first to implicate endorphins in the process. Early on, she translated this knowledge to practical applications, demonstrating that deep brain stimulation relieves intractable pain in humans by releasing endorphins. She and her colleagues elaborated the role of endorphins and related neuropeptides in brain function using a combination of molecular, anatomical and behavioral tools. Akil’s current research investigates the genetic, molecular and neural mechanisms underlying stress, addiction and mood disorders. Along with Stanley J. Watson, M.D., Ph.D., she co-directs the University of Michigan node of the Pritzker Neuropsychiatric Research Consortium. This consortium is engaged in large-scale studies to discover new genes and proteins that cause vulnerability to major depression, bipolar illness and schizophrenia.