Dr. Placzek’s research focuses on studying human brain diseases with translational molecular imaging – positron emission tomography (PET). Through a multi-faceted approach, his group is working towards a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in brain diseases. Their work is applicable to a number of human diseases and disorders including psychiatric (e.g. opioid addiction) and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease). Studying these diseases with PET requires certain tools, or radiotracers, which are designed to inform us how a particular target is behaving in a living subject. Dr. Placzek’s group uses radiotracers and PET to study disease mechanisms, drug pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, neuropharmacology, and molecular neuropathology at disease onset or throughout disease progression.

Given that there are countless molecular targets in the brain involved in disease, and scientists have only developed radiotracers for a small percentage of them, Dr. Placzek’s group is also working towards developing both new and improved PET radiotracers for studying neurological disorders. These tools will allow discovery, research, diagnosis, and treatment of brain diseases faster and more effectively than ever before.


PhD in Organic Chemistry, Northeastern University

Select Publications

1. Placzek MS, Schroeder FA, Che T, Wey HY, Neelamegam R, Wang C, Roth BL, Hooker JM. Discrepancies in Kappa Opioid Agonist Binding Revealed through PET Imaging. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2019 Jan 16;10(1):384-395.

2. Placzek MS, Zhao W, Wey HY, Morin TM, Hooker JM. PET Neurochemical Imaging Modes. Semin Nucl Med. 2016 Jan;46(1):20-7.

3. Placzek MS, Van de Bittner GC, Wey HY, Lukas SE, Hooker JM. Immediate and Persistent Effects of Salvinorin A on the Kappa Opioid Receptor in Rodents, Monitored In Vivo with PET. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Dec;40(13):2865-72.


2018-2020: Huntington’s Disease Society of American Human Biology Fellow

2013-2016: Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA NIH-NIDA T32, McLean Hospital

2015: MGH Preceptor Honor Massachusetts General Hospital Summer Research Training Program

2015: NIDA Travel Award CPDD 2015 NIDA Travel Award