The primary purpose of this proposed research training project is to enhance the applicant's ability to succeed in a research career in neuroimaging and neuromodulatory methods as they apply to clinical populations. The applicant will acquire important skills in acquisition and analysis of electroencephalography (EEG) data and the application of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in a clinical population. The proposed research also aims to examine the utility of an inexpensive, easily applied intervention technique (tDCS) for mitigation of cognitive dysfunction associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Recent behavioral and neuroimaging research from our lab and others has demonstrated diminished attention and increased risky decision making in participants with FASD compared to healthy controls. Interestingly, our lab and others have also recently found that these cognitive processes can be improved using tDCS. It is therefore hypothesized that tDCS may be useful for treatment of dysfunction in attention and risky decision making related to FASD. The most effective placement for tDCS enhancement of attention and reduction of risky decision making will first be determined using the sustained attention to response task and the Cambridge gambling task, respectively. Behavioral and EEG data will be used as a metric for the effectiveness of tDCS. Following this experiment in healthy controls, young adults with FASD will be examined using this/these tDCS electrode placements. By completing the aims outlined in this proposal, the applicant will learn methods for quantification and analysis of EEG data. He will also learn to utilize previous experience with tDCS in healthy participants for application to those with FASD, and the applicant will be trained in the planning, execution, and communication of research, with the goal of becoming an independent researcher. Results obtained in the experiments outlined in this proposal may be clinically relevant as well. It is expected that tDCS will produce strong behavioral and electrophysiological effects for both attention and risky decision making. The results of these experiments have the potential to provide a safe and inexpensive therapeutic technique for alleviating the effects of FASD.

Public Health Relevance

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a relatively non-invasive, inexpensive, and safe method to alter brain function and behavior. TDCS has been shown in our pilot studies and published research to increase attention and reduce risky decision making. These same cognitive processes are affected in patients diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in our pilot studies and in other published research. In this proposed research training plan, the utility of tDCS for treatment of cognitive deficits in FASD will be examined. The results of these experiments have the potential to provide a safe and inexpensive therapeutic technique for alleviating the effects of FASD, a prevalent and costly disorder.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Health Services Research Review Subcommittee (AA)
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Urbanas, Diana
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University of New Mexico
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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