On this page you will find a collection of active addiction-related projects ongoing across Rutgers. Learn about on-going research projects and datasets available for analysis. Contact information for each project listed below is provided.
If you are interested in hosting your project on this page, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your project details.
Smartphone sensors to detect shifts toward healthy behavior during alcohol treatment
This secondary data analysis project will use the unique combination of already collected phone sensor data (e.g., activity level, travel pattern, communication pattern from call logs) in the context of an alcohol text message intervention clinical trial to gain new insight into when and how young adults’ routines change in response to a digital alcohol intervention. Phone sensor data provide objective markers of daily routines, which can reveal with low burden, shifts toward alternative behaviors associated with positive response to alcohol treatment. Results will inform personalized interventions based on phone sensor data (e.g., GPS, accelerometer) to optimize digital intervention effects.
A genetically informative approach to understanding the impact of spousal psychiatric disorders on alcohol use disorder onset, remission, and relapse
Our objective in this project is to delineate the impact of a spouse’s substance use and psychiatric disorders on their partner’s alcohol use disorder (AUD) onset, remission, and relapse during marriage within a genetically informative framework. To date, efforts to understand spousal influences on alcohol outcomes have largely focused on alcohol-specific contagion models, whereby alcohol use behaviors in one partner are socially transmitted to the other. Yet, this prior focus alcohol-specific contagion is restrictive in view of epidemiological evidence that spouses of AUD-affected individuals also tend to suffer from other common disorders, including major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, other drug abuse/dependence, ADHD, and antisocial personality disorder.
We build on these epidemiological findings to clarify the nature of the associations between these other forms of spousal substance use and psychiatric disorders and key alcohol outcomes including AUD onset, remission, and relapse. We do this within a genetically informative framework that also recognizes the potential contributions of a spouse’s genetic propensity for a disorder even in the absence of a diagnosis (i.e., social genetic effects), as well as how the focal individual’s genotype may differentially sensitize him/her to a spouse’s disorder (i.e., gene-environment interaction effects).
Relevant phenotypic and genotypic data for this secondary data analysis project come from spousal dyads (N = 1,688 dyads) collected as part of the NIAAA-funded Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA). Our specific aims are to: (1) Delineate the temporal dynamics underlying associations between spousal substance use and psychiatric disorder diagnoses (inclusive of cannabis use disorder, other psychoactive drug use disorder, antisocial personal disorder, ADHD, nicotine dependence, major depressive disorder, and PTSD) and their partner’s AUD onset, remission, and relapse; (2) Identify whether a spouse’s genetic propensity for psychiatric disorders (above and beyond a diagnosis itself) is associated with their partner’s AUD onset, remission, and relapse; (3) Examine whether the focal individual’s genetic predisposition for alcohol problems predicts variability in their sensitivity to spousal substance use and psychiatric disorders; and (4) Evaluate whether the expected effects differ as a function of sex and parenthood.
The results may have theoretical implications for expanding social stress models of AUD to include spousal substance use and psychiatric disorders, and in turn this knowledge is anticipated to have implications for couples and family systems-based preventive interventions for AUD. More broadly, this work will contribute to the collaborative research team’s long-term goal to elucidate how genetic factors and close relationship factors come together to influence the onset, persistence, and discontinuity of AUD.
A Puff Topography Biofeedback Paradigm to Reduce Stress-Precipitated Smoking Reinforcement
This project involves an experimental design to evaluate the acute effects of a novel puff topography biofeedback paradigm informed by autonomic psychophysiology to attenuate stress-precipitated smoking reinforcement in emotionally vulnerable smokers.
Determining the neurobiological predictors of Multisystemic Therapy outcomes in justice-involved youth
Youth who engage in problem behavior (violence, delinquency, and substance abuse) exact a costly social and economic toll on their families, peers, and communities. Despite being a leading cause of treatment referral, empirically-supported behavioral interventions for these problem behaviors are both time and resource intensive, typically requiring involvement of not only a therapist, but also caregivers, school personnel, and other community agents such as probation officers and youth program staff. Translational research can improve treatment outcomes as well as increase its potency and efficiency, decreasing the treatment burden on therapists and patients. In this pilot study, we propose to bridge insights from behavioral genetics and neuroscience with existing empirically supported treatments. Using biological data to define dysfunction may allow for meaningful subgroups to be defined, identifying premorbid dysfunction, and anchoring assessment and treatment to biologically-based systems.
Smartphone app to examine effects of cannabis use on driving behavior
This exploratory study, done in collaboration with the Departments of Psychiatry and Computer and Electrical Engineering (Professor Yingying Chen) at Rutgers, combines smartphone monitoring of driving behavior with daily data collection (self-report, saliva sample) to examine effects of cannabis on driving behavior in real-world conditions among medical cannabis patients. The project focuses on medical cannabis patients due, in part, to greater access to information on cannabis content based on product labeling (THC, CBD). Study results have important public health implications for guiding efforts to prevent driving under the influence of cannabis.
Identifying transdiagnostic versus specific genetic, environmental, and neural risk factors for addictive disorders
Addictive disorders are highly comorbid, due, in part, to shared genetic liability as well as common dysfunction across neural systems (e.g., inhibitory control) that also influence other externalizing behaviors. Historically, etiologic research on addictive disorders excluded participants with comorbid disorders and instead studied individuals that met criteria for only one disorder of interest. Given the comorbidity among addictive disorders, this approach has decreased the generalizability of findings and limited our ability to understand the etiology of addictive disorders as they occur in the real world. The current study will begin to address this limitation by collecting data from a clinically diverse group of adults and mapping genetic, neural, and environmental risk factors onto shared and unique variance among addictive disorders while also examining associations with treatment outcomes.This will be accomplished by examining associations among transdiagnostic addiction and disorder specific factors and 1) genetic liability, 2) environmental risk factors, 3) treatment outcomes, and 4) neural indices of inhibitory control, reward responsivity, and emotion processing.
Addiction & Decision Neuroscience Lab Projects
The Addiction & Decision Neuroscience Lab has several ongoing projects related to the cognitive neuroscience of recovery in opioid use disorder. In one project, they aim to test a psychological model of relapse to opioid use which predicts that optimistic beliefs about harm (a cognitive process associated with an under-appreciation of risk and resistance to unfavorable information) can cause people to accept more risk in everyday activities, and consequently take actions that precipitate drug reuse, relapse, and treatment failure. In another, they aim to discover what happens in the brain when we experience craving, the strong and specific motivational state for a particular object or experience, how the brain can arbitrate between one type of craving (e.g., for food) versus another (e.g., for drugs), and how this circuitry is reshaped when craving becomes pathological, as in addiction.
Addressing the Central Control of Glucagon like peptide-1 (GLP-1) on Feeding Behavior
Obesity and diabetes are very common metabolic disorders linked to brain dysfunction. Glucagon-like peptide- 1 (GLP-1) analogs reduce food intake in humans, and this is an FDA-approved drug for treating type 2 diabetes that is also approved for weight loss in treating obesity; however, their mechanism for suppression of food intake is unclear. Addressing the central control of GLP-1 on feeding behavior will not only help us understand the functions of neuropeptides in the brain but will also inform the pharmacotherapy of obesity.
Afferent Neurocardiac Signals, Cue Reactivity, and Cognitive Control
The aim of this project is to examine whether a brief behavioral intervention of slow breathing paced at a resonance frequency of the cardiovascular system can enhance attention and cognitive control in young adults. Results from this study may provide evidence of novel brain-body prevention and intervention targets to improve physical health.
Collaborative Studies on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA)
The Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) is a multi-site project whose goal is to identify specific genes involved in the predisposition to alcohol dependence and related disorders. The COGA sample consists of large families densely affected with alcohol dependence, who were identified through inpatient or outpatient alcohol treatment programs. All individuals were administered the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA) interview, a polydiagnostic instrument that assesses most major psychiatric disorders. Since 1991, COGA has interviewed more than 17,000 members of more than 2,200 families from across the United States, many of whom have been longitudinally assessed. COGA has used a variety of complementary strategies for gene identification, and has a variety of genotyped samples in which different types of genetic analyses are on-going. These include (1) family-based linkage sample; (2) case control GWAS sample; and (3) child-adolescent sample. Family members, including adults, children, and adolescents, have been carefully characterized across a variety of domains, including alcohol and other substance-related phenotypes, co-occurring disorders (e.g. depression), electrophysiology, key precursor behavioral phenotypes (e.g. conduct disorder), and environmental risk factors (e.g. stress). COGA participants have also provided a blood sample that has been used to create a repository of DNA and cell lines which are used for genetic studies.
The College Pile Up study
The College Pile Up study is a two-year study that seeks to understand how typical college health behaviors, such as drinking alcohol and experiencing high levels of stress, affect the cardiovascular system. The study includes 2 in-person laboratory sessions and weekly online surveys for 4 semesters. In the lab, cardiovascular reactions to several breathing tasks are assessed. Online surveys assess substance use, exercise, sleep, and stress. This rich longitudinal dataset will be used to better capture facets of substance use patterns and how they overlap with other common health behaviors, such as high stress and insufficient sleep.
Compound RUEC2-118 a fast-acting treatment for general anxiety and panic disorder
We are involved in collaborative proof-of-concept studies of compound RUEC2-118, a novel partial GABAAR positive modulator, as a fast-acting treatment for general anxiety and panic disorder, to prevent benzodiazepine withdrawal and overdose fatalities.