Caryn Lerman, Ph.D.

Portrait of Caryn Lerman
Director, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center
TCORS Faculty

Carolyn Lerman’s research translates work in neuroscience, pharmacology, genetics, and behavioral science to improve treatment for tobacco dependence. Lerman is past president of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and a recipient of a National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Award.


Biobehavioral basis of addiction to nicotine, with emphasis on the neural and genetic substrates of smoking behavior and response to pharmacotherapies.  Active research projects include pharmacogenomic studies of tobacco dependence treatment, neuroimaging studies of smoking relapse, and neuromodulation interventions for cancer risk behavior change.


Lerman C, Narod S, Schulman K, Hughes C, Gomez-Caminero A, Bonney G, Gold K, Trock B, Main D, Lynch J, Fulmore C, Snyder C, Lemon SJ, Conway T, Tonin P, Lenoir G, Lynch H.  BRCA1 testing in families with hereditary breast-ovarian cancer.  A prospective study of patient decision-making and outcomes.  Journal of the American Medical Association, 1996; 275(24):1885-1892.

Lerman C, Hughes C, Trock BJ, Myers RE, Main D, Bonney A, Abbaszadegan MR, Harty AE, Franklin BA, Lynch JF, Lynch HT.  Genetic testing in families with hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer.  Journal of the American Medical Association, 1999; 281(17):1618-1622.

Lerman C, Kaufmann V, Rukstalis M, Patterson F, Perkins K, Audrain-McGovern J, Benowitz N.  Individualizing nicotine replacement therapy for the treatment of tobacco dependence:  a randomized trial.  Annals of Internal Medicine, 2004; 140:426-433.

Wang Z, Faith M, Patterson F, Tang K, Kerrin K, Wileyto EP, Detre JA, Lerman C.  Neural substrates of abstinence-induced cigarette cravings in chronic smokers.  Journal of Neuroscience, 2007; 27:14035-14040.

Patterson F, Schnoll RA, Wileyto EP, Pinto A, Epstein LH, Shields PG, Hawk LW, Tyndale RF, Benowitz N, Lerman C.  Toward personalized therapy for smoking cessation:  a randomized placebo-controlled trial of bupropion.  Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 2008; 84:320-325 (PMID18388868).

Uhl GR, Liu QR, Drgon T, Johnson C, Walther D, Rose JE, David SP, Niaura R, Lerman C.  Molecular genetics of successful smoking cessation:  convergent genome-wide association results.  Archives of General Psychiatry, 2008; 65(6):683-693 (PMID18519826; PMC2430596).

Loughead J, Wileyto EP, Valdez JN , Sanborn P, Tang K, Strasser AA, Ruparel K, Ray R, Gur RC, Lerman C.  Effect of abstinence challenge on brain function and cognition in smokers differs by COMT genotype.  Molecular Psychiatry, 2009; 14(8):820-826 (PMID19065145; PMC3896978).

Loughead J, Ray R, Wileyto EP, Ruparel K, Sanborn P, Siegel S, Gur RC, Lerman C.  Effects of the a4b2 partial agonist varenicline on brain activity and working memory in abstinent smokers.  Biological Psychiatry, 2010; 67(8):715-721 (PMID20207347).

Schnoll RA, Patterson F, Wileyto EP, Heitjan D, Shields AE, Asch D, Lerman C. Effectiveness of extended duration transdermal nicotine therapy: a randomized trial.  Annals of Internal Medicine, 2010; 152 (3):144-151, (PMID20124230; PMC3782858).

Ray R, Ruparel K, Newberg A, Wileyto E, Loughead J, Divgi C, Blendy JA, Logan J, Zubieta JK, Lerman C.  Human mu opioid receptor (OPRM1 A118G) polymorphism is associated with brain mu opioid receptor binding potential in smokers.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2011; 108(22):9268-9273 (PMID21576462; PMC3107291).

Lerman C, Gu H, Loughead J, Ruparel K, Yang Y, Stein EA. Large scale brain network coupling predicts acute nicotine abstinence effects on craving and cognitive function. JAMA Psychiatry, 2014; 71(5):523-530 (PMID24622915; PMC4097018).

Lerman C, Schnoll, RA, Hawk LW, Cinciripini P, George TP, Wileyto EP, Swan GE, Benowitz NI, Heitjan DF, Tyndale RF, PGRN-PNAT Research Group.  Use of the nicotine metabolite ratio as a genetically informed biomarker of response to nicotine patch or varenicline for smoking cessation: a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trial.  The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 2015; S2213-2600 (14):70294-70292 (PMID25588294; PMC4480925).

Loughead J, Wileyto EP, Ruparel K, Falcone M, Hopson R, Gur R, Lerman C.  Working memory-related neural activity predicts future smoking relapse. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2015, 40(6):1311-1320 (PMID25469682; PMCID4397393).

Caryn Lerman is the director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the USC Keck School of Medicine.

Lerman's Network

  • Health Communication
  • Media and Communication Effects
  • Penn Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science