Joanna Fowler, PhD
- PROFESSOR | Psychiatry
Dr. Joanna Fowler is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Dr. Fowler graduated from the University of Colorado’s Ph.D. program in 1967 and joined Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1969, where she is currently a Senior Chemist. After joining Mount Sinai’s Department of Psychiatry in 2006, Dr. Fowler has collaborated with colleagues at Mount Sinai on brain imaging studies of Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), among other conditions.
Dr. Fowler has made significant contributions to brain research. Beginning in the 70’s, together with other researchers, Dr. Fowler developed a radiotracer to measure brain glucose metabolism non-invasively in humans. This tracer, 18FDG, has become the most widely used radiotracer in basic research and clinical settings, and has facilitated tremendous advances in the study of the human brain and in tumor detection in the patients with cancer.
Dr. Fowler’s work includes studies of the mechanisms of drug addiction, specifically how the rapid uptake and clearance of cocaine in the brain can help explain its typical pattern of abuse. She is currently engaged in developing methods to understand the relationship between genes, brain chemistry and behavior.
Dr. Fowler has more than 300 peer-reviewed publications to her credit and has received several awards, including the National Medal of Science and the National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemistry, both bestowed in 2009, the Distinguished Scientist Fellowship in Life Sciences in 2005 and the Distinguished Basic Scientist Award from the Academy of Molecular Imaging in 2005. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004. Dr. Fowler holds eight patents for radiolabeling procedures.
BA, University of South Florida
PhD, University of Colorado
National Medal of Science
National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Science
Glen T. Seaborg Award
American Chemical Society’s Francis P. Garvin-John M. Olin Medal
Society of Nuclear Medicine’s Paul Abersold Award
Department of Energy’s E.O. Lawrence Award
Specific Clinical/Research Interests:
Organic synthesis and neurochemistry; radiotracer synthesis with positron emitters; mechanistic studies relating to the development of radiotracers for positron emission tomography (PET); translational applications of radiotracers to problems in neuroscience; PET studies of neurotransmitter activity, enzyme activity and drug mechanisms
Summary of Research Studies:
Dr. Fowler has recently focused on changes in brain that are disrupted during drug addiction. Her work has included imaging studies on the uptake and movement of cocaine and methamphetamine in the human brain, which shed light on why these drugs are so powerfully addictive. She is also involved in PET studies to understand the action of medications and to facilitate the introduction of new drugs.
Another research area targets variations in monoamine oxidase (MAO) genes and how they affect personality and vulnerability to psychiatric disorders. In earlier research, Dr. Fowler discovered that cigarette smokers have reduced levels of MAO, an enzyme that breaks down dopamine, the neurotransmitter that mediates reward, motivation and movement. This finding may account for the high rate of smoking in individuals who are depressed or addicted to drugs.