Marc Lewis, PhD

Nobel Conference 51

Marc Lewis, PhD, is a neuroscientist and professor of developmental psychology, recently at the University of Toronto, where he taught and conducted research from 1989 to 2010, and presently at Radboud University in the Netherlands. His research explores the neurobiological basis of emotional and personality development across childhood, and his work demonstrates how effectively neuroscience can be applied to typical and atypical human development. He is the author or co-author of over 50 journal publications in psychology and neuroscience, editor of an academic book on developmental psychology, and co-author of a book for parents. More recently, Dr. Lewis has written two books concerning addiction.

Beginning during his undergraduate years in Berkeley, California, Lewis experimented with a large variety of drugs, eventually becoming addicted to opiates. He moved to Toronto in 1976 and began to study psychology at the University of Toronto, but at the same time he encountered serious personal and legal troubles resulting from his addiction. After quitting drugs at age 30, he continued his graduate education in developmental psychology. He received a PhD and license to practice psychology in 1989 and he was appointed to the position of professor the same year.

Around 2006, Dr. Lewis's research led him back to addiction, this time as a neuroscientist studying the brain changes that accompany addiction and recovery. His recent book, Memoirs of an Addicted Brain, blends his life story with a user-friendly account of how drugs affect the brain and how alterations in brain function help explain addiction.

His new book is The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease, and it has already stirred controversy among addicts, their families, and treatment providers. Dr. Lewis claims that the scientific facts don't support the disease model of addiction. Rather, addiction, like romantic love, develops through accelerated learning. Combining scientific views with intimate biographies of addicts who have recovered, the book also shows how addiction can be overcome through a self-directed change in one's goals and perspectives.