This is an application for a Mentored Research scientist Development Award (K01). The goal of the proposed project is to provide the Candidate with advanced skills needed to establish an independent program of addiction research using advanced neuroimaging methods. The Candidate proposes a comprehensive training plan, combining didactic instruction overseen by her mentors, formal coursework, participation in applied training experiences with individual advisors, and participation in ongoing seminars. Specific training goals include: (1) gaining additional clinical and didactic training in drug addiction, (2) training in advanced neuroimaging methods and data analysis, (3) training in the neurological assessment of movement disorders, and (4) training in the responsible conduct of research. The training plan will be executed in coordination with a proposed set of research studies that are based upon preliminary data collected by the Candidate, which found that abnormal function of the brain's cerebro-cerebellar pathway was associated with executive dysfunction in methadone-maintained opioid-addicted drug users. These findings are directly relevant to drug addiction because impairments of executive control over behavior are thought to lead to risky and impulsive behavior. The proposed research will characterize the function and interdependence of specific nodes within the cerebro-cerebellar pathway, while also defining how disruptions within this pathway contribute to executive dysfunction in drug users, specifically methadone-maintained opioid users. The studies will combine fMRI scanning during executive control tasks with other advanced neuroimaging methods that will (1) assess baseline physiological states so that fundamental group differences in neurophysiology can be factored into the data interpretation, (2) identify nodes within the cerebro-cerebellar pathway that function in synchrony, and (3) determine the integrity of the white matter nerve bundles that subserve the pathway. The proposed application will, therefore, identify neural mechanisms that contribute to executive dysfunction in drug addiction and, at the same time, enable the Candidate to establish an independent research career in the study of drug addiction.
The aim of this study is to examine measures that that identify brain abnormalities involved in drug addiction. The relevance of this research to public health is that results have the potential to identify important targets for therapeutic interventions in drug addiction and relapse.
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