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In Memoriam: Loren "Larry" Parsons (1964 – 2016)



In Memoriam: Loren "Larry" Parsons
(1964 – 2016)

Loren “Larry” Howell Parsons, a professor in The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders (CNAD) passed away on June 21, 2016. He was 51.

“I extend my deepest condolences to Larry’s family, friends and colleagues,” said TSRI President Steve Kay. “A valued member of the TSRI’s scientific community for almost two and a half decades, he will be greatly missed.”

“Professor Parsons was a brilliant neuroscientist, a dynamic leader and a wonderful, well-loved human being,” said Barbara Mason, Pearson Family Professor and acting chair of CNAD. “Dr. Parsons developed a spectacular research program at TSRI and has made seminal contributions that will remain his legacy. The only solace one can gain from recounting a life cut short prematurely is that his legacy and contributions will live on through his mentorship of students and colleagues, for which we are incredibly grateful.”

Parsons grew up in Boulder, Colorado and Corvallis, Oregon and graduated from Whitman College (BA in Chemistry, 1988) and Emory University (PhD in Chemistry, 1992). He joined TSRI as a postdoctoral fellow and stayed at the institute for the rest of his career, which he dedicated to exploring the brain’s complexity and the impact of drugs of abuse.

In particular, his research focused on the neurochemical mechanisms contributing to drug reward, dependence and relapse with a goal of identifying novel drug targets to help treat addiction. Recent projects sought to characterize alterations in motivation, affective state and cognitive function resulting from long-term drug exposure, with a particular focus on dependence-related disruptions in the function and influence of the endogenous cannabinoid system.

“Larry was an internationally recognized thought-leader and researcher in the fields of neurochemistry and addiction, where his pioneering work on elucidating dynamic neurotransmitter function in vivo shaped our understanding of the molecular basis of drug abuse and dependence in fundamental ways,” said Benjamin Cravatt, chair of the Department of Chemical Physiology at TSRI. “Beyond his research accomplishments, Larry was a genuinely beloved person whose scholarship, kindness and collaborative spirit will be deeply missed by his many colleagues and friends both here at TSRI and around the world.”

Parsons was known for being a devoted teacher and mentor. He was a faculty member in TSRI’s Graduate Program and contributed to courses at the University of California, San Diego. In his lab, Parsons trained eleven postdoctoral fellows who went on to lead laboratories and pursue successful careers in the pharmaceutical industry.

Outside of the lab, Parsons was a music lover with an encyclopedic knowledge of genres from classical to alternative rock. He was an avid beer connoisseur who did some brewing himself. He was also known as a bit of a coffee fanatic, and colleagues said they always knew when he was in the office from the smell of his favorite coffee blend brewing: Peet's Coffee Major Dickason's Blend.

Parsons is survived by his wife, Jodi, and children, Cole and Caelen.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, his family requests donations to support the establishment of "The Larry Parsons Travel Award in Alcohol and Addiction Research” at TSRI. Go to, indicate the donation amount, then choose "other" at the end of the drop down menu and enter "The Larry Parsons Travel Award in Alcohol and Addiction Research.”

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