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Michael Nader, PhD

Michael Nader, PhD, investigates drug addiction in self-administering nonhuman primates, focusing on cocaine abuse. He partners with industry to evaluate drug abuse liability and develop life-altering therapeutics.

Michael Nader, PhD

About Michael Nader

Michael Nader, PhD, received his doctorate in experimental psychology from the University of Minnesota. He did his post-doctorate work at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD, where he was mentored by renowned drug researcher James Barrett, PhD. Subsequently, Nader was Research Faculty at the University of Chicago working in the laboratory of William L. Woolverton, PhD. Woolverton introduced Nader to the study of nonhuman primates including a monkey model for self-administration. In 1992 Nader joined the faculty at Wake Forest School of Medicine; he has spent over 30 years refining his nonhuman primate models for the study of substance abuse.

Specifically, Nader examines the relationships among drug addiction, impulsivity, cognitive function and social/environmental factors in nonhuman primate models of human disease. Distinctive aspects of his research are self-administration and social housing; these characteristics allow him deeper insight into addictive impulses and the impact of social behavior on drug abuse. His approach considers sex differences, social hierarchy and drug history as important variables affecting outcome, and he is concerned with physiological consequences of chronic drug use.

Nader believes combining social behavior with drug self-administration is the best predictive model of human drug taking. In addition, Nader partners with physicists and radiologists to observe how substances attach to brain receptors, and to conduct longitudinal studies observing the consequences of long-term drug abuse, recovery and abstinence using the latest in brain imaging technology.

Nader’s discoveries are impacting the perception of drug abuse. Specifically, his research with socially-housed primates demonstrates the potential impact of social hierarchy on drug use and recovery. He advocates that drug abuse will manifest uniquely in different users and seeks diverse solutions to address this disease.

This perspective marks Nader as an ideal researcher for evaluating drug abuse liability. He encourages the use of nonhuman primates for this kind of research, as the overall cost is comparable to rodent studies and the transferability of the findings to human disease is much more significant. Nader sees tremendous opportunity to collaborate with industry in developing life-altering therapeutics.


Michael Nader, PhD, directs the Nonhuman Primate Imaging of Behavior Program and is a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine. He specializes in:

  • Neurosciences and behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Women’s health
  • Behavioral pharmacology
  • Cocaine abuse
  • Brain imaging