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Research

Our research focuses on understanding and explaining the mechanisms that underlie impulsivity as well as problem/pathological gambling.

Impulsivity

Impulsivity has been variously defined as human behavior without adequate thought, the tendency to act with less forethought than do most individuals of equal ability and knowledge, or a predisposition toward rapid, unplanned reactions to internal or external stimuli with diminished regard to the negative consequences of these reactions.

Impulsivity is implicated in a number of psychiatric disorders including mania in bipolar disorder, personality disorders, impulse control disorders and substance use disorders. Despite the psychiatric relevance of impulsivity, there is little agreement among researchers and clinicians regarding the exact definition of impulsivity or how it should be measured.

As an example of the type of research conducted within our lab, projects include using functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the neural activities underlying gambling urges and drug cravings, understanding genetic influences on pathological gambling and related disorders, testing the efficacies and tolerabilities and exploring the biological underpinnings of drug and behavioral therapies for pathological gambling and drug addictions, and examining the gender differences involved in pathological gambling and drug addiction.

In our Exploratory Center for Interdisciplinary Translational Research of Addiction (ExCITRA), we are studying facets of impulsivity across species using behavioral and brain assessments with a focus on striatal function in cocaine dependence.

Gambling

Gambling is a common behavior in which the majority of adolescents and adults participate. Gambling can be defined as placing something of value at risk in hopes of gaining something of greater value. While most people gamble without developing gambling problems, the group of people developing gambling problems can experience significant suffering, as can people close to them.

Our group has been investigating multiple aspects of recreational, problem and pathological gambling. We have used brain imaging, genetic, clinical trials, epidemiologic and other methodologies to gain a better understanding of people with different degrees of problem gambling severity.

Currently, we are combining brain imaging, genetic, clinical trials and other methodologies in our Center of Excellence in Gambling Research that is supported by the National Center for Responsible Gaming.