Skip to main content

Edward Daniel Levin, PhD

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Professor in the Environmental Sciences and Policy Division
Associate Professor of Pharmacology & Cancer Biology
Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Office: 323 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701
Campus Mail: DUMC Box 104790, Durham, NC 27710

Dr. Levin is Chief of the Neurobehavioral Research Lab in the Psychiatry Department of Duke University Medical Center. His primary academic appointment is as Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He also has secondary appointments in the Department Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke. His primary research effort is to understand basic neural interactions underlying cognitive function and addiction and to apply this knowledge to better understand cognitive dysfunction and addiction disorders and to develop novel therapeutic treatments.

The three main research components of his laboratory are focused on the themes of the basic neurobiology of cognition and addiction, neurobehavioral toxicology and the development of novel therapeutic treatments for cognitive dysfunction and substance abuse. Currently, our principal research focus concerns nicotine. We have documented the basic effects of nicotine on learningm memory and attention as well as nicotine self-administration. We are continuing with more mechanistic studies in rat models using selective lesions, local infusions and neurotransmitter interaction studies. We have found that nicotine improves memory performance not only in normal rats, but also in rats with lesions of hippocampal and basal forebrain connections. We are concentrating on alpha7 and alpha4beta2 nicotinic receptor subtypes in the hippocampus, amygdala , thalamus and frontal cortex and how they interact with dopamine D1 and D2 and glutamate NMDA systems with regard to memory and addiction. I am also conducting studies on human cognitive behavior. We have current studies to assess nicotine effects on attention, memory and mental processing speed in schizophrenics, Alzheimer's Disease patients and people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In the area of neurobehavioral toxicology, I have continuing projects to characterize the adverse effects of prenatal and adolescent nicotine exposure. Our primary project in neurobehavioral toxicology focuses on the cognitive deficits caused by the marine toxins including domoic acid, ciguatera toxin and pfiesteria. We have documented a persistent neurobehavioral effects caused by Pfiesteria and domoic acid exposure. We are determining the neurobehavioral nature and mechanisms of this deficit. The basic and applied aims of our research complement each other nicely. The findings concerning neural mechanisms underlying cognitive function help direct the behavioral toxicology and therapeutic development studies, while the applied studies provide important functional information concerning the importance of the basic mechanisms under investigation.

Education and Training

  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin - Madison, 1984

Selected Grants


Larrauri, José A., Lisalynn D. Kelley, Mason R. Jenkins, Eric C. Westman, Nestor A. Schmajuk, M Zachary Rosenthal, and Edward D. Levin. “Meclizine enhancement of sensorimotor gating in healthy male subjects with high startle responses and low prepulse inhibition.” Neuropsychopharmacology 39, no. 3 (February 2014): 651–59.

Full Text

Levin, Edward D. “Nicotinic attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder treatment.” Biol Psychiatry 75, no. 3 (February 1, 2014): 174.

Full Text

Levin, Edward D., Marty Cauley, Joshua E. Johnson, Ellen M. Cooper, Heather M. Stapleton, P Lee Ferguson, Frederic J. Seidler, and Theodore A. Slotkin. “Prenatal dexamethasone augments the neurobehavioral teratology of chlorpyrifos: significance for maternal stress and preterm labor.” Neurotoxicol Teratol 41 (January 2014): 35–42.

Full Text

Yenugonda, Venkata M., Yingxian Xiao, Edward D. Levin, Amir H. Rezvani, Thao Tran, Nour Al-Muhtasib, Niaz Sahibzada, et al. “Design, synthesis and discovery of picomolar selective α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor ligands.” J Med Chem 56, no. 21 (November 14, 2013): 8404–21.

Full Text

Kutlu, Munir G., Dennis Burke, Susan Slade, Brandon J. Hall, Jed E. Rose, and Edward D. Levin. “Role of insular cortex D₁ and D₂ dopamine receptors in nicotine self-administration in rats.” Behav Brain Res 256 (November 1, 2013): 273–78.

Full Text

Levin, Edward D. “Complex relationships of nicotinic receptor actions and cognitive functions.” Biochem Pharmacol 86, no. 8 (October 15, 2013): 1145–52.

Full Text

Levin, Edward D., Hannah G. Sexton, Karen Gordon, Christopher J. Gordon, Yingxian Xiao, Kenneth J. Kellar, Venkata Mahidhar Yenugonda, et al. “Effects of the sazetidine-a family of compounds on the body temperature in wildtype, nicotinic receptor β2-/- and α7-/- mice.” Eur J Pharmacol 718, no. 1–3 (October 15, 2013): 167–72.

Full Text

Burke, Dennis, and Edward D. Levin. “Nicotinic α4β2 antagonist treatment attenuates impairments in radial-arm maze repeated acquisition caused by dizocilpine in rats.” In Biochemical Pharmacology, 86:1231–1231. Elsevier BV, 2013.

Full Text

Rezvani, Amir H., Hannah G. Sexton, Joshua Johnson, Cori Wells, Karen Gordon, and Edward D. Levin. “Effects of caffeine on alcohol consumption and nicotine self-administration in rats.” Alcohol Clin Exp Res 37, no. 9 (September 2013): 1609–17.

Full Text

Rezvani, A. H., Y. Xiao, M. L. Brown, M. A. Paige, V. M. Yenugonda, K. J. Kellar, and E. D. Levin. “DESENSITIZATION OF A4 beta 2 NICOTINIC RECEPTORS ATTENUATES ALCOHOL INTAKE AND PREFERENCE IN ALCOHOL PREFERRING P RATS.” In Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research, 37:247A-247A. WILEY-BLACKWELL, 2013.