This K01 Mentored Research Scientist Award will support me in establishing an independent research career using neuroimaging to investigate the role of individual differences in alcohol use disorder risk and treatment outcomes. The training component of this application builds on my neuroscience and neuroimaging background, which demonstrates a strong technical aptitude and provides a robust basic scientific foundation from which to study the psychopathology of substance risk. To achieve full research independence, I have identified four key training objectives: 1) obtain experience in a clinical setting in order to understand all aspects of alcohol use disorders and their treatment; 2 gain expertise in the area of sex differences and addiction; 3) acquire advanced training in statistical methodologies; and 4) increase knowledge about brief interventions and motivational interviewing techniques. I will be mentored through this process by Dr. Maureen Walton, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Mary Heitzeg, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan. A team of carefully selected consultants will provide additional guidance and training. The proposed K01 project will take place within the University of Michigan Addiction Research Center (UMARC), Department of Psychiatry, a multidisciplinary research center that has been funded by NIAAA, NIDA, NIMH, and a number of other external funding sources to address addiction problems, their causes, and their remediation. Eighty other substance abuse research projects are active on the University of Michigan campus, and UMARC faculty interact and collaborate with these other scientists. The University's Functional MRI Laboratory is also a collaborative, interdisciplinary facility used by a number of researchers across many departments, including Psychiatry, Psychology, Biomedical Engineering, and Radiology, just to name a few. The University of Michigan's vigorous research environment nurtures an expanding group of neuroimaging researchers, including Dr. Heitzeg, who has been the lead of the neuroimaging arm of the Michigan Longitudinal Study for 8 years and was the recipient of a NIDA Early Career Investigator Award for her work in developmental neuroimaging and addiction. The research component focuses on identifying whether there are differences between male and female collegiate binge drinkers in neural regions associated with risk for alcohol use disorders--impulse control, emotion processing, and alcohol cue reactivity--and how these regions change after a brief intervention. There is substantial behavioral evidence for disparities in risk trajectories such that females tend to score higher of measures of negative affect and males tend to score higher on measures of impulsivity. This can extend into young adulthood when binge drinking and negative consequences stemming from this type of behavior becomes problematic. Additionally, brief interventions have been shown to be effective for collegiate binge drinkers, with some mixed outcomes regarding male and female success rates. How sex differences moderate the neurobiology of addiction is understudied; a more careful examination of these differences would be beneficial for the development of targeted prevention and intervention programs. Here, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) will be conducted in two groups of binge drinking college students between the ages of 18-20yrs, with equal numbers of males and females in each group (n=100 total). One group (BI group) will be recruited from the University of Michigan University Health Services BASICS program (a brief alcohol intervention program for college students), and will partake in a baseline fMRI scan prior to beginning the program, and a follow-up scan immediately after the program finishes. The other group (Control group) will be recruited from campus and will only receive educational information about alcohol use. They will partake in a baseline and follow-up fMRI scan on the same time schedule as the BI group. Measures of emotional functioning, drinking motives, alcohol consumption, and alcohol-related problems will be measured at each scan, as well as 3 and 6 months post-scan. The research specific aims are: 1) examine sex differences in binge drinking risk factors, motivations, and underlying neural correlates at baseline in collegiate bing drinkers; 2) characterize sex differences in neural mechanisms of change underlying a brief intervention for binge drinking; and 3) characterize sex differences in neural mechanisms of change underlying a brief intervention for binge drinking. I will accomplish these research and training goals through close mentorship from a team with expertise in these content areas, didactic coursework, and directed readings.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed K01 serves dual purposes: 1) to train a promising scientist to become an independent investigator in translational research, specifically alcohol abuse research, and 2) to investigate how sex differences moderate the neural trajectories involved in risky drinking, and what effect brief interventions have on these trajectories. Accomplishment of these two objectives will address the need for basic scientists pursuing translational research, and will answer fundamental questions regarding the impact of individual differences on the neurobiology of addiction and mechanisms of behavioral change. Findings will have implications for guiding future prevention and treatment strategies based on sex.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Scientist Development Award - Research & Training (K01)
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Study Section
Neuroscience Review Subcommittee (AA-4)
Program Officer
Bechtholt, Anita
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University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Schools of Medicine
Ann Arbor
United States
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Heitzeg, Mary M; Hardee, Jillian E; Beltz, Adriene M (2018) Sex Differences in the Developmental Neuroscience of Adolescent Substance Use Risk. Curr Opin Behav Sci 23:21-26