Floyd Bloom: Building a bridge to the future  pg. 6

Bloom was so energized by the concept of neuropeptides that while he was being recruited to join the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., he persuaded the Salk researchers to share their compounds. His coat pockets loaded with little vials of endorphin, enkephalin and other opioids, Bloom flew back to his lab in Washington, D.C., to test their action on brain neurons.

George Koob, Ph.D., a behavioral neuroscientist, joined Bloom’s lab in the mid-1970s, when Bloom moved his group to the Salk Institute. “I think we both always believed that the brain was the key to behavior -- in fact, that behavior was the ultimate expression of the brain’s function,” Koob says. They began to explore the relationship between the action of certain neuropeptides and observable physical behavior. The focus on neuropeptides was Bloom’s idea. Recalls Koob, “He said his mustache whiskers were twitching, so he knew we were on to something.

“Another corner we turned,” Koob continues, “was our work on alcohol where Floyd insisted -- and he was right -- that alcohol MUST act on neurons to (create) its intoxicating- and dependence-inducing effects.

“That work has been confirmed, and our Alcohol Research Center (which Floyd started and directed for almost 20 years) is well on the way to determining what changes in the brain lead to alcohol dependence, alcoholism.”

There is evidence, for example, that norephinephrine may play a role in the motivational aspects of opiate and alcohol dependence. “It is very exciting to return to norepinephrine,” Koob says. “It speaks to the point that science, like a good wine, can age with time, and observations that made little sense 20 years ago can then fit into the puzzle later on to clarify the picture.”

Cinnamon stick

In the early fall of 1979, Bloom was running a meeting of scientists at Woods Hole, Mass. He was a widower and had two teenaged children. A second-year post-doctoral fellow, Jody Corey, was working in a lab at Woods Hole, and she sneaked downstairs to listen to some of the lectures.

She noticed that he would jump up and comment after every talk, drawing parallels and contrasts to previous talks, explaining their relevance to each other. “It was pretty fascinating to listen to him synthesize what we just heard and to tell the audience why what we had just heard was so interesting and important,” she says. “I was very taken by his ability to do that, actually. It was a very attractive feature of him, I thought.”

Bloom recalls his future wife introducing herself to him after the session when she offered him “a cup of coffee she had made with a cinnamon stick.” A year later they married. With a Ph.D. in anatomy in hand, she then went on to medical school at the University of California, San Diego, graduating in 1986, and now specializes in the clinical care of patients with cognitive and degenerative problems like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases.

Page < 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 > All