The proposed career development application provides research training for Dr. Assaf Oshri to facilitate his transition to independence. Dr. Oshri proposed research training focuses on investigating neurocognitive mechanisms linking exposure to contextual stressors associated with growing up in resource poor rural environments to adolescent drug use. An emerging consensus among behavioral scientists, however, indicates that the ?next generation? of researchers will have the advantage of a transdisciplinary education, integrating behavioral and biological expertise. In particular, perspectives and methods from cognitive neuroscience are providing a powerful vantage point from which to investigate the effects of contextual stress on development and youth drug use. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), in particular, generates information complementary to that which is obtained from behavioral measures, fostering new insights into the etiology of drug use. Dr. Oshri?s long-term goal is to advance understanding of the etiology of drug use among populations who are vulnerable to addiction due to a history of exposure to stressful environments and participate in the translation of this knowledge into effective interventions. His near term goal (5 years) is to submit a competitive R01 application to NIDA to conduct a prospective study of rural youth investigating the neurocognitive and psychosocial pathways through which exposure to contextual stress affects early onset drug use. The proposed research training experience is designed to develop competencies in (a) the conceptual and empirical foundations of neurocognitive research, (b) fMRI methods including design, implementation, data analysis, and testing hypotheses, (c) conceptualizing and assessing community and family level risk and protective processes associated with rural environments, and (d) grantsmanship. In conjunction with formal and informal educational experiences, a two-year prospective investigation of rural youth integrating fMRI and multilevel contextual assessments of psychosocial risk and protective process is proposed. In this research Dr. Oshri tests the developmental hypothesis that risky decision making represents a neurocognitive adaptation to resource poor rearing environments. This proof-of-principal study is designed to provide a focus for training as well as preliminary data to support a competitive R01 application.
In low income rural areas, stressful environments can increase young people?s vulnerability to using drugs. The proposed study will investigate how stressful environments influences adolescents? risky decision making and the brain systems associated with them. The proposed studies will be part of a training program for a promising early career scientist whose investigations will assist program developers in designing and personalizing preventing interventions to avert the influence of stress on drug use.