A research project on the environmental factors causing relapse tendencies with addictive illness has earned Dr Magdalene Schlesiger an ERC Starting Grant, through which the European Research Council (ERC) equips projects with high-level funding. Based in the Department of Clinical Neurobiology at Heidelberg University Hospital, she will investigate how drug-associated contexts influence behaviour and what role certain neuronal circuits play in addiction. The ERC is making approximately 1.5 million euros available to finance her research for a period of five years.
Dr Schlesiger’s ERC project is entitled "How do drug-associated contexts drive behaviour? The role of entorhinal circuitry in addiction" (DrugsAndMemory). In it, the neuroscientist explores the neuronal basis for the observation that in addiction, relapse to drug use is strongly dependent on the environmental context: Why do many drug addicts successfully refrain from drug use when undergoing therapy in a rehabilitation clinic, but relapse to drug use upon return to their familiar environment? A central aspect of addiction, and a great challenge for effective therapy, is the tendency to fall back into addiction in environments in which drugs were previously taken, Magdalene Schlesiger explains. In her project DrugsAndMemory, the scientist investigates, in mouse models of addiction, how neuronal circuits change when particular environments are associated with drug use and how these changes, eventually, give rise to context-triggered relapse to drug use.
Magdalene Schlesiger studied biology and neurosciences at the universities of Münster and Heidelberg. For her dissertation in the field of neurosciences she did research at the University of California in San Diego (USA) and at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. She obtained her doctorate in 2016 and then worked at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in the Department of Clinical Neurobiology. This is a cooperational division based at the Medical Faculty Heidelberg of Heidelberg University, Heidelberg University and the DKFZ. Since 2022, Dr Schlesiger has headed an Emmy Noether junior research group there on long-term memory formation, which is funded by the German Research Foundation.
With the ERC Starting Grant the European Research Council supports outstanding young scientists from all disciplines who have already produced excellent work and wish to conduct pioneering research as project leaders.