After ten years in the U.S., Annika Thorsell is back in Sweden. Since 1 April 2011, she has been senior lecturer of experimental psychiatry at LiU.
"Life consists of a series of coincidences," says Annika Thorsell.
What do cocaine and good food have in common? Well, their effects are regulated by the brain's reward system and can lead to an addiction. Drugs also have specific mechanisms that have an effect, while the eating disorders, gambling or sex, functions "naturally".
"This is interesting. Which common mechanisms exist between the abuses, which overlap, and what are the differences? What happens in the brain when an addiction develops and what happens when you stop?" contemplates Annika Thorsell, addiction researcher at LiU.
Thorsell and her research team will now start to delve deeper into these questions. Annika Thorsell is the new senior lecturer of experimental psychiatry at LiU.
"It’s ultimately about being able to tailor medical products for addicts."
Annika Thorsell describes her career and her life as a series of coincidences. However if you look at it close enough it becomes apparent that it was no coincidence that she secured an exciting position as a researcher at the National Institute of Health in Washington DC. Nor that, after ten years in the U.S., she decided to move back to Linköping, Sweden for the post as senior lecturer in experimental psychiatry, specializing in addiction mechanisms.
She completed her degree project in immunology and biochemistry and felt that it was not her cup of tea.
"A fellow student completed his degree project in neurochemistry and psychiatry. It seemed so interesting so I called the professor who was just setting up a new lab and introduced myself."
Thorsell was offered a position and met the now world-renowned professor of psychiatry and addiction researcher, Markus Heilig with whom she teamed up with on a number of occasions during her career.
Thorsell joined Markus Heilig when got a job in Stockholm at the addiction clinic at Karolinska University Hospital/Institutet.
"From the very beginning I felt that neuroscience was extremely interesting. How does the brain work? What happens when it does not work? What happens when you add different substances, how does it affect behaviour?"
Thorsell completed her thesis in molecular psychiatry at Karolinska Institutet and her postdoc in San Diego at The Scripps Research Institute. Then she received an offer to work with Markus Heilig again, this time as a staff scientist at the National Institute of Health in Washington DC.
After nine and a half years Thorsell felt that she had done her time there. She missed Sweden, Swedes, and most of all her family.
An offer from LiU as a senior lecturer enticed her for several professional reasons:
"I would get the chance to teach, which is really exciting, and I would be able to start my own research."
The research team already retains several important areas of interest, such as the similarities and differences in the brain for different addictions, and they also look forward to investigating mechanisms dependent on gender.
"All basic research has been conducted on male rats, however there are differences between the sexes that we want to map out."
The same applies of course to human beings. And the best remedy for alcoholism, Naltrexone, works better on men for example than on women because of a point mutation in a particular gene.
Research is conducted primarily on rats and the work on animals is something Annika appreciates.
"It's nice to work with animals, I am an animal lover and I grew up with pets. I think you have to be fond of animals when you work with animal experiments. The rats recognize you, you have a relationship and they become comfortable with you if you are comfortable with them.
Acclimatizing to Sweden again has gone well so far, despite the fact that she has just left a city of 5.5 million inhabitants in favour of one with 140,000 inhabitants.
"It is so nice that the size is so manageable. I can cycle around the whole town in an hour. It doesn’t take long to get to work. I can take the car if I want to visit my family in Gothenburg. I do not have to miss out on things anymore!"
And Annika enjoys her job at LiU.
"There is a good package of clinical and preclinical research here, and the large strategic investment in neuroscience is important to me. Linköping is not very strong in addiction research, but I can contribute by profiling and strengthening that area. I ended up in the right place. My goal is to establish our research group, to be involved in developing an active research environment with a focus on education and learning and to eventually become a professor myself and help get graduate students through their coursework."
Last updated: 2012-03-07