Photo of Huda Akil

Huda Akil

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For her pioneering contributions to our understanding of the brain biology of emotions; for her seminal discoveries of the molecular, neural, and behavioral mechanisms of pain, addiction, stress, and depression; for identifying novel molecular targets for their treatment; and for her exceptional service to science.

Huda Akil is the Gardner Quarton Distinguished University Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry and research professor in the Michigan Neuroscience Institute at the University of Michigan.

Akil’s work focuses on the neurobiology of emotions, mood, and temperament. She and her colleagues have made seminal contributions to our understanding of the brain biology of stress, anxiety, and substance abuse. Akil provided the first physiological evidence for a role of endorphins in the brain and showed that endorphins are activated by stress and modify pain perception. Her laboratory has developed new genetic animal models of temperament and shown their relevance to human disorders, including addiction and depression. She is engaged in large-scale collaborative studies to discover genes, proteins and neural circuits that cause vulnerability to major depression and bipolar illness. Her work has uncovered the role of the fibroblast growth factor family in depression and established its functions in the development and control of emotions.

Akil has served on several national and international organizations to promote scientific and brain health awareness nationally and globally. She is a past president of the Society for Neuroscience, the largest neuroscience organization in the world. She is an elected member of to the U.S. National Academy of Medicine (NAM), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS). She has served on the Council of the NAM and is currently on the Council of the NAS. Akil’s contributions to science have been recognized with numerous honors and awards.