The candidate's long-term career goal is to examine the neural mechanisms associated with impulsivity and reward processing, and evaluate their impacts on negative health-related behaviors such as smoking and overeating. Impulsivity is associated with a preference for immediate rewards despite negative long-term consequences, which in turn can lead to poor health-related decision-making. To meet her career goal, the candidate needs to strengthen her neuroimaging skills and expand her scientific background to include clinical experiences in addiction and obesity. Through the K99/R00 mechanism she will receive the training necessary to become a competitive independent investigator in translational cognitive neuroscience research as it relates to addiction and obesity. The candidate's immediate goal is to examine neural responses to rewards and punishments in nicotine addicted, obese and healthy groups. Employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the mentored research proposal uses monetary rewards and self-reported impulsivity to clarify the degree to which nicotine addiction and obesity share mechanisms in the neural systems of reward. The candidate will also examine whether varying levels of impulsivity differentially impact reward processing in nicotine addiction and obesity. During the independent research phase, the candidate will examine how the brain responds when these same groups choose between smaller immediately available rewards compared to larger delayed rewards. The independent research phase will also include a group of obese nicotine addicted individuals to further investigate shared mechanisms of negative health-related behaviors. These research experiences will lay the groundwork for the candidate's career as an independent investigator conducting translational research in neuroimaging of impulsivity and reward in health-related decision making.
The proposed mentored and independent research has important clinical implications concerning addiction and obesity. The results will shed light on how impulsivity, addiction and obesity impact reward processing and decision-making, which may ultimately have clinical applications such as the development of personally, tailored treatment programs.