Research Programs by Topic

Emory NPRC researchers conduct studies into some of the world’s most prevalent conditions and diseases to help find causes, preventions, treatments and even cures.

Addiction is the compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance, whether it is drugs, alcohol, nicotine or even food. Addicts continue to seek out their drugs of choice despite physical, psychological and social harm.

Researchers at the Emory National Primate Research Center (EPC) are working to decipher the biological and psychological backgrounds of addiction and are paving the way for a new class of drugs to target addiction and obesity.

EPC researchers developed and tested one such medication, RTI-336, aimed at treating cocaine addiction. Evaluation in human clinical trials showed the medication could be a useful adjunct in the treatment of cocaine dependence. The progress with this compound is one example of collaborative research programs at the EPC.

EPC Investigators Studying Addiction


As the baby boom generation grows older, understanding the specific physiological changes in aging humans will be key in developing new treatments for age-related disorders. With advancing age, verbal knowledge remains stable, but short-term memory, working memory, mental processing speed and long-term memory decrease. Emory National Primate Research Center researchers are studying older nonhuman primates to define the normal course of aging and to establish how aging influences the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Drawing on neuroimaging, behavioral testing and neurohistological analyses, researchers are trying to determine why neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, appear to be unique to humans. These studies will give insight into the biological basis of age-related functional decline and into the factors that can influence healthy aging.

EPC Investigators Studying Aging

Larry Young, PhD


National Institute on Aging

More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's Disease (AD), the most common form of dementia. AD gradually destroys memory and the ability to learn, reason, make judgments and communicate, and the disease is considered progressive and fatal.

Scientists have learned a lot about the disease since it was discovered more than 100 years ago. Today at the Emory National Primate Research Center, our researchers want to stop the devastation AD brings. That is why we are focusing on neuroscience, immunology and vaccine research to better understand how AD develops and progresses as well as to advance the treatment and prevention of this progressive brain disorder.


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by impairments in social reciprocity and social cognition, delayed language development and repetitive and stereotypical behaviors.

Although there is currently no cure for ASD, there are a number of treatments. A major goal of Emory National Primate Research Center researchers is to identify early biomarkers (neural and behavioral), genetic risks and drug targets for prevention, intervention and treatment that will enhance social functioning in ASD patients. This work will include better understanding the fundamental biological mechanisms underlying social cognition and the development of social relationships with the goal of identifying novel therapies to treat the social deficits in ASD.

EPC Investigators Studying Autism Spectrum Disorders


Researchers in the Emory National Primate Research Center Division of Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience examine genetic, biological and environmental factors that regulate social behavior and cognition, and they study how social experience affects physiological processes and brain function. The researchers' studies focus on a variety of topics based on the social structure of primate society, including affiliation, aggression, communication, reproduction, maternal behavior, growth, learning/memory and language development.

EPC Investigators Studying Developmental and Comparative Cognition

Dystonia is a movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions across the body due to abnormal brain regulation of muscle activity.

Researchers have been successful in developing rodent models to study the pathophysiology of dystonia due to the many genes associated with the development of this disorder. Emory National Primate Research Center researchers are studying the synaptic plasticity of motor-related brain networks that contribute to dystonia. The same researchers are also working to develop a nonhuman primate model of the disorder.

EPC Investigators Studying Dystonia

Early life insults are linked to important alterations in neurobehavioral and cognitive development. Although critical steps in the formation of the central nervous system take place in utero, brain development is not complete at birth and continues through childhood and adolescence as a highly dynamic process needed for proper social learning and cognitive development. This lengthened development allows for environmental factors to impact the brain and cognitive development.

Emory National Primate Research Center researchers have recently focused on three critical early life insults in infant monkeys' development: Zika virus infection, multiple exposure to general anesthesia, and stress and maternal/infant diet. These nonhuman primate models provide insights into outcomes and mechanisms of exposure to these early life environmental factors in human infants, and provide a platform to test therapy approaches to alleviate neurobehavioral consequences.

EPC Investigators Studying Early Life Insults and Brain/Behavior Development

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects approx. 50 million people worldwide, ;making it one of the most common neurological diseases globally.

The disorder is defined by the occurrence of at least two spontaneous seizures. Seizures are sudden, abnormal electrical activity in the brain that could induce uncontrolled body movements and changes in behavior depending on what part of the brain is affected.

Symptoms may include loss of awareness, changes in emotion, loss of muscle control and shaking. Drugs, high fevers, head injuries and certain diseases may cause seizures, but the cause for most of them is unknown.

EPC Investigators Studying Epilepsy

Approximately 40 million Americans have a fear or anxiety disorder. Such disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and many more.

A special focus of Emory National Primate Research Center researchers is PTSD, a stress-related anxiety disorder that may develop after experiencing a traumatic event, sometimes early in life. Side effects of PTSD often include traumatic flashbacks and nightmares that keep an individual from feeling safe or comfortable.

Discoveries made by Emory Primate Center (EPC) researchers have been translated to clinical applications, as demonstrated by the use of D-cycloserine to treat phobias and PTSD. EPC researchers will continue to use state-of-the-art techniques to better understand fear learning, inhibition of fear and stress responses.

EPC Investigators Studying Fear, Anxiety and Stress-Related Disorders


Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and scarring. Because symptoms of Hepatitis C are not easily identified, individuals are often unaware of the infection until the liver has already sustained extensive damage.

Researchers at the Emory National Primate Research Center are aiming to better understand the disease in order to develop a vaccine and more effective treatment options.

EPC Investigators Studying Hepatitis C

Arash Grakoui, PhD


HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic affecting more than 33 million people. First recognized in 1981, HIV affects the immune system by destroying specific white blood cells that defend the body against diseases. AIDS is the final stage of HIV, in which the human body is no longer able to protect itself from infections, diseases and cancers.

One of the Emory National Primate Research Center's foremost scientific goals is the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine that will help end the global epidemic. A leading HIV/AIDS preventive vaccine that was developed and tested at the Emory Primate Center and is now licensed to GeoVax Labs, Inc., has completed Phase 2a human clinical trials. GeoVax recently received FDA approval to use the same vaccine in a new Phase 1 clinical trial focused on treatment for individuals already infected with HIV.

EPC Investigators Studying HIV/AIDS


Huntington's Disease (HD) is a genetic, neurodegenerative disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, loss of mental processing capabilities and emotional disturbances. One of the most devastating neurodegenerative diseases, HD patients succumb to the disease within 10 to 15 years of the onset of the symptoms.

Researchers at the Emory National Primate Research Center have developed the first transgenic nonhuman primate model of Huntington's Disease in an effort lead to greater understanding of the underlying biology of HD and to the development of potential therapies.

EPC Investigators Studying Huntington's Disease

Thomas Wichmann, MD


Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitos. Symptoms of malaria include high fevers, uncontrollable chills and flu-like conditions. If not monitored and appropriately treated, malaria can be severe and potentially fatal.

Researchers at The Emory National Primate Research Center are focusing on studying host-pathogen interactions to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in pathogenesis and protective immune responses essential to develop novel preventions and treatments.

EPC Investigators Studying Malaria

Alberto Moreno, MD

The encoding, storage and retrieval of an individual's memories are arguably some of the most important functions of the human brain. While it is normal to forget things from time to time, conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, dementia, stoke, depression and head injuries can lead to severe memory loss.

Emory National Primate Research Center researchers are learning more about how memories are made and retrieved. Researchers hope a better understanding of memory and the neuroanatomical structures that are involved can lead to treatments for humans with mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease and other causes for memory loss.

EPC Investigators Studying Memory


Medline Plus

Parkinson's Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of the dopamine-producing brain cells that help regulate movement. PD patients are unable to control body movements and often have body tremors or trembling of the hands, arms and legs. PD can also cause emotional disturbances.

In order to create more effective treatments for PD, Emory National Primate Research Center researchers are studying the neural networks that play critical roles in the pathophysiology of PD.

EPC Investigators Studying Parkinson's Disease


Udall Center for PD Research

Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder in which patients often have hallucinations, paranoid delusions or chaotic speech.

While the causes of schizophrenia are not yet known, researchers at the Emory National Primate Research Center are working toward more effective treatment and therapy options for individuals who have the disease.

EPC Investigators Studying Schizophrenia


Schizophrenia FAQ

Stroke is third leading cause of death in America. A stoke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted due to a clot blocking an artery. Brain cells often die during a stroke because of the lack of oxygen. The loss of these brain cells often affects an individual's memory and ability to speak and move.

Using the extensive imaging equipment at the Emory National Primate Research Center, our researchers are uniquely positioned to learn more about the effects of stroke and to develop effective treatment through therapy and medication. Proper intervention of stroke is very time sensitive, and the Emory Primate Center is currently the only facility where acute stroke can be studied in nonhuman primates using multiple imaging technologies.

EPC Investigators Studying Stroke


National Stroke Association

Transgenics is the branch of science that studies the effects of modifying an organism's genome by adding genes that originate in different species. These genetically modified animals provide great insight to the functions of certain genes.

Emory National Primate Research Center researchers have developed a transgenic monkey model of Huntington's disease (HD) in an effort better understand the underlying biology of HD, which may lead to the development of potential therapies.

Researchers at the Emory Primate Center (EPC) have also successfully generated the first genome-edited prairie voles using CRISPR, an important step toward unlocking the genetic secrets of pair bonding. The future application of this technology will enable EPC scientists to perform a host of genetic manipulations that will help identify the brain mechanisms of social bonding and other complex social behaviors. This advancement may also have important implications for understanding and treating psychiatric disorders associated with impairments in social behavior.

EPC Investigators Studying Transgenics

Larry Young, PhD

While organ and tissue transplantation can be a life-saving measure, patients often struggle with the toxic side effects of daily immunosuppressant medicines to achieve permanent, long-term acceptance of organs.

Emory National Primate Research Center researchers are focused on achieving immune tolerance to organ and tissue transplants while preserving protective immunity within the recipient. During the last 15 years, Emory Primate Center researchers have been pivotal in the development and application of costimulation blockers to facilitate transplantation of both solid organs as well as pancreatic islets to treat type 1 diabetes. This research started in nonhuman primates at the EPC and was subsequently translated to highly successful human clinical trials.

To accommodate the growing program, the EPC will construct a new transplant medicine facility. Research will focus on modulating the immune system so the body will accept a foreign organ, thereby reducing the medications needed following transplant surgery.

EPC Investigators Studying Transplant Medicine

Christian Larsen, MD, PhD


Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria attack the lungs and are spread through the air when a contagious individual coughs, sneezes or speaks. TB can be fatal if it is not carefully monitored and treated.

Once the leading cause of death in the United States, scientists have learned much about the disease. Researchers at the Emory National Primate Research Center are focusing on developing treatments to fight TB and suppress its growth and progression in the chest.

For more information about Emory-based TB research, visit:

EPC Investigators Studying Tuberculosis

Jyothi Rengarajan, PhD


Center for Disease Control - Tuberculosis

Vaccines help prepare the body to fight infection by introducing a small amount of dead or inactive parts of infectious agents to develop a memory immune response and produce antibodies for future viral invaders.

The Emory National Primate Research Center (EPC) houses many of the Emory Vaccine Center (EVC) researchers, and the EPC and EVC researchers are collaborating to develop vaccines for COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, HcV and other viral threats.

EPC Investigators Studying Vaccines


Emory Vaccine Center