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Erin Calipari

Assistant Professor of Pharmacology

Expert in the neuroscience of mental illness and addiction, including gender differences.


Calipari received her PhD in Neuroscience in 2013 in the laboratory of Sara Jones at Wake Forest University School of Medicine where she studied how self-administered drugs altered dopaminergic function to drive addictive behaviors. She then went on to complete her postdoctoral training with Eric Nestler at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she used circuit probing techniques to understand the temporally specific neural signals that underlie motivation and reward learning. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University in the Department of Pharmacology. Her independent work seeks to characterize and modulate the precise circuits in the brain that underlie both adaptive and maladaptive processes in reward, motivation, and associative learning.

Media Appearances

  • This Combination of Medicines May Help Heavy-Drinking Smokers Quit

    “The findings point to a complex problem facing the addiction field: many people suffer from multiple addictions that are occurring at the same time and treating these co-occurring addictions may be different and more difficult than treating either addiction alone,” Erin Calipari, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Verywell. “These findings are really important for clinicians that are treating individuals with substance use disorders.”

    July 1st, 2021

  • Pandemic mixed with the holidays is a cocktail for relapse, creating new addicts

    Now, new research from Vanderbilt University shows not only are more people drinking alcohol and abusing other drugs during the pandemic, but that this increase could create new addicts as well. “You’re seeing an increase in drinking, in drug use in people at home. When the pandemic’s over, this isn’t going to go away," said Erin Calipari, Ph.D., with the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research.

    December 4th, 2020

  • Tennessee Voices: A conversation with Erin Calipari

    Erin Calipari of the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research spoke with Tennessean Opinion Editor David Plazas.

    October 26th, 2020

  • COVID-19 is making addiction worse but could offer a blueprint for treating it

    We are watching in real time as scientists scramble to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. As an addiction researcher, I’ve noticed that the narrow national conversation on ending the pandemic has created a blind spot regarding the effect that COVID-19 is having on the ongoing addiction epidemic.

    September 25th, 2020

  • Clinton Foundation works to put naloxone in recovery homes as opioid epidemic is overshadowed by COVID-19 pandemic

    Stress from job losses can push some to drug use or knock recovering addicts off the path to sobriety, said Erin Calipari, principal investigator at the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research. “When you start looking at data across the country, you see there’s a massive spike in overdoses,” Calipari said. “This is above and beyond what we saw with the opioid epidemic. It’s getting much, much worse.”

    August 31st, 2020

  • Stress over COVID-19 pandemic creating new problems for people with substance use disorders

    As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues, in Nashville, the opioid epidemic is getting worse. "We're also seeing a new population of people who are now suffering with substance abuse disorder and this isn't going to go away when the pandemic goes away," said Erin Calipari, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine. Erin Calipari studies how stress creates instability for people with substance use disorders.

    August 21st, 2020

  • A Device That Heats Tobacco, But Doesn't Burn It, Can Now Be Sold in the U.S. Here's What to Know About IQOS

    Erin Calipari, an assistant professor of pharmacology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, says it’s important to cut down on harmful byproducts of smoking, but it’s also important to remember that nicotine is an addictive drug on its own, and is not without risks. “Nicotine is a stimulant. Stimulants have effects on the brain, and they have cardiovascular effects as well,” Calipari says. “We make a huge deal about the tar and the byproducts in cigarettes, but the drug addiction is incredibly important as well. Just because this minimizes other aversive outcomes doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

    May 1st, 2019

  • Why women in nursing are more inclined to addiction than men

    According to Erin Calipari, an assistant professor of pharmacology at the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research, the most critical finding of the study might be that while women are a population segment highly vulnerable to substance abuse, studies have focused pretty much entirely on men. Naturally, none of the hormones that can influence addiction or relapse would show up in an all-male pool of study subjects.

    April 1st, 2019

  • Meet the Calipari who holds court at Vanderbilt lab

    Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari loves his older daughter, her homemade spaghetti and her pursuit of life-changing science. And he was really looking forward to seeing her when she traveled to the University of Kentucky campus last month to give a presentation about her addiction research.

    March 15th, 2019


Postdoctoral Training, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Ph.D, Wake Forest School of Medicine

B.S., University of Massachusetts, Amherst

B.S., University of Massachusetts, Amherst


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