Winner 2009 – Jean-Pol Tassin


The ECNP Neuropsychopharmacology Award has been established to recognise distinguished research in neuropsychopharmacology and closely related disciplines. This annual Award, given alternately to basic and clinical research, has so far been received by thirty-one neuropsychopharma- cologists.

This year's prize recognises contributions in basic science research, and the Awardee is Dr. Jean-Pol Tassin, Team leader, Laboratory Molecular Genetic, Neurophysiology and Behaviour CNRS, Collège de France, Paris. The Award Jury 2009 has recognised his pioneering and innovative research concerning our understanding of mechanisms underlying drug addiction, one of the most burning issues in today's society with enormous socio-economic consequences. 

When Jean Pol Tassin, originally trained as a chemist, came to Jacques Glowinski and Ann-Marie Thierry at Collège de France as a postdoctoral fellow in 1973, they had just made an important and surprising discovery: there are dopaminergic projections to limbic cortical areas. Jean-Pol Tassin then decisively contributed to the further characterization of this novel system. This work led him into questions concerning dopamine and addiction, and he could, surprisingly, demonstrate an important role of both noradrenaline and serotonin neurons projecting to frontal cortex. Thus, psychostimulant-induced locomotion could be inhibited by blockade of cortical alpha1B-adrenoceptors or by genetic deletion of this receptor, and a similar situation could be shown for 5-HT2A receptors. In fact, he found that these two receptors exerted a modulatory, inhibitory influence on each other, an effect that seems necessary for normal cortical function. However, this mutual inhibition could not be seen in wild-type mice after repeated administration of psychostimulants. This has led Jean-Pol Tassin to formulate a novel and original model of addiction: when repeatedly exposed to psychostimulants, two important monoamine systems, the noradrenaline and the serotonin neurons, are uncoupled. When these neurons are activated during withdrawal, in the uncoupled state, the brain reacts with distress and discomfort. This reaction can only be relieved by further intake of drug which is called relapse. Jean-Pol Tassin's most recent twist concerns smoking and abuse. Thus, he has shown that monoamine oxidase inhibitors present in cigarettes play a key role in tobacco addiction.

In summary, Jean-Pol Tassin is a pre-eminent researcher in the field of neuropsychopharmacology with pioneering and creative scientific achievements.

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