Ongoing Research Projects
Completed Research Projects
Neurocognitive Disinhibition and Cannabis Addiction
K23DA023560 09/30/2008 – 08/31/2012
Cannabis is the most widely-used illicit drug in the United States, and its use is currently most prevalent among adolescents and young adults. Cannabinoid receptors are densely distributed in the human brain and results from neuroimaging studies of abstinent cannabis users suggest functional brain abnormalities that are often not reflected on measures of neurocognitive functioning. In contrast, mounting evidence indicates that theory-driven measures of neurocognitive disinhibition are sensitive to the integrity of brain structures and circuits implicated in addiction pathophysiology and may be of value in the assessment of neurocognitive abnormalities in cannabis users. This study examines the role of neurocognitive disinhibition in cannabis use and addiction by characterizing performance on several measures of inhibitory control in a large sample (n = 216) of participants between the ages of 16 and 24 who vary in exposure and use of cannabis, as well as prevalence of cannabis addiction. The investigation will be carried out in the context of a training plan that broadly includes new training in addictions neuroscience, conducting substance use research with adolescents, and longitudinal statistics and research methods. In conjunction with the proposed training plan, the findings from this cross-sectional study lays the necessary groundwork for development of a longitudinal investigation to delineate the complex role of neurocognitive disinhibition in the development and maintenance of cannabis addiction. The findings from the proposed study inform how neurocognitive disinhibition relates to use of cannabis and the severity of cannabis addiction. This will lead to future studies that may identify youth at risk for cannabis addiction and inform interventions.
Mechanisms for Neurocognitive Damage of HIV+ Drug Users
The scientific literature reports neurocognitive abnormalities in persons infected with HIV that may have critical implications for daily function, medication adherence, and engagement in sexual and injection high-risk behaviors that may spread HIV, as well as the hepatitis C virus. Drug use is thought to exacerbate cognitive dysfunction in those with HIV. Although various neurocognitive functions in drug users with HIV have been studied, there is a paucity of literature on procedural learning abilities, which may be a factor in the neurocognitive and functional deficits of drug users with HIV. This investigation examined motor and cognitive procedural teaming in HIV infected drug users recruited from an ongoing NIDA-funded parent project that examines executive functions in this population.