This page is currently being updated with information about our research studies.
We are currently conducting a number of research projects in the Addictions Lab @ KU and in collaboration with our colleagues at KU and other institutions. This list of projects is meant to be an overview of our studies. If you would like to learn more about a specific area, please contact Dr. Amlung by email.
Investigating structural and functional neural correlates of alcohol and nicotine use disorders
Chronic alcohol use is associated with substantial negative effects on the structure and function of the brain. Our current grant-funded research is using structural MRI to investigate the role of intracortical myelin in the neuropathology of alcohol use disorders. We are also funded by NIAAA to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore the neural correlates of dynamic increases and decreases in alcohol demand in heavy drinkers. Finally, we have recently examined examining associations between brain structure (cortical thickness, gray matter volume) and neurocognitive functioning in alcohol use disorders using data from the Human Connectome Project.
Using behavioral economics to investigate motivation for alcohol and other drugs
Several of our recent projects have utilized a behavioral economics approach to investigate dynamic influences on motivation for alcohol and other drugs. This work relies on the concept of behavioral economic demand, or the quantitative relationship between cost of a commodity (alcohol, tobacco, etc) and consumption. We have shown previously that demand for alcohol is dynamically increased by alcohol-related environmental cues related to alcohol and also by acute stress. We are continuing this work by examining cross-commodity craving and demand for alcohol and cigarettes among heavy drinking smokers.
Exploring novel behavioral and neuromodulatory interventions for addictive disorders
We are interested in leveraging our expertise in behavioral science to develop novel interventions for addictive disorders. For example, Herry Patel (a Master's student in the lab) recently completed his thesis project exploring the use of Episodic Future Thinking in a treatment-seeking sample of people with addictive disorders. We have also investigated the use of contingency management for promoting smoking cessation among people with schizophrenia who smoke cigarettes.
This work also includes the use of novel neuromodulatory techniques. For example, we recently completed a pilot study in the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research investigating the effects of a type of non-invasive brain stimulation (transcranial direct current stimulation) on neurocognitive processes in addiction. Specifically, we are examining whether tDCS stimulation over prefrontal cortex regions impacts measures of risk-taking in people who use cannabis compared to non-users.
Concurrent addictive and mental health disorders
Epidemiological studies have consistently reported high comorbidity between addictive disorders and other psychiatric illnesses, such as alcohol use disorders and major depression. These concurrent disorders are associated with increased severity of substance misuse, poor treatment outcomes, increased hospitalizations, and a number of other negative consequences compared to individuals with addiction or psychiatric disorders alone. While at McMaster University, Dr. Amlung was a principal investigator of a research project that was building a database of clinical and neurocognitive measures in patients from the concurrent disorders unit St Joseph's West 5th hospital. Finally, we are interested in studying the prevalence and clinical correlates of traumatic brain injury among people with substance use disorders and concurrent disorders
Other collaborative projects
Examples of studies that we are conducting with colleagues at KU, McMaster University, and other institutions include:
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