Shackman lab receives NIDA R21 award

Shackman lab receives NIDA R21 award

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has awarded a $418,000 grant to the University of Maryland to support research aimed at understanding the neurobiology of nicotine dependence.

Nearly 50 million Americans smoke tobacco and smoking is the leading cause of premature death and disability in the US. The grant will support a team of researchers, led by Professor Alex Shackman in the Department of Psychology at Maryland, who plan to use state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques and smart-phone technology to clarify, for the first time, the relevance of anxiety-related brain circuits to chronic tobacco use and acute nicotine withdrawal in humans—a critical step toward the development of new, brain-based cessation aids.

Dr. Shackman notes that, “while the transition from tobacco use to nicotine dependence is associated with long-lasting changes in multiple emotional and motivational mechanisms, most neurobiological research in humans has focused on reward-related systems. This is unfortunate because heightened anxiety is a hallmark of nicotine deprivation and there is compelling evidence that anxiety and negative affect powerfully motivate nicotine dependence and relapse.”

The investigators plan to use functional MRI (fMRI) to quantify anxiety-related brain function in abstinent and non-abstinent tobacco smokers. Mobile phone technology will be used to assess smoker’s daily perceptions of stress, anxiety, depression, and craving, as well as actual smoking behavior. According to Dr. Shackman, this project “will provide an important first opportunity to see whether models of addiction developed in rodents apply to humans and hopefully will inform the development of new treatments for tobacco addiction.”

Other members of the investigative team include Dr. Jason Smith in the Department of Psychology at Maryland; Dr. Luiz Pessoa, Director of the Maryland Neuroimaging Center; Dr. Megan Piper from the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Dr. John Curtin in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

7/11/2016 | College Park, MD USA