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Center Faculty and Affiliates Receive New Grant Awards

REHAB Lab, Psychology, SAS

Dr. Samantha Farris and colleagues at the Rutgers Emotion, Health, and Behavior Laboratory, Department of Psychology, SAS recently received an R21 grant award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse. This two-year study will examine the role of fluctuations in progesterone and estradiol (ovarian hormones) as biological mechanisms of affective dysfunction that maintain the rewarding effects of alcohol in females with heavy drinking. This study involves a within-subjects, observational design with prospective daily assessment of the course of the mensural cycle.

Department of Kinesiology, SAS

Drs. Brandon Alderman and Marsha Bates are Multi-PIs on a new Exploratory/Developmental Research Award from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism titled “Afferent neurocardiac signals, cue reactivity, and cognitive control.” This grant will integrate expertise from two CAS laboratories – the Exercise Psychophysiology Lab and the Cardiac Neuroscience Laboratory to study the brain effects of a behavioral form of neuromodulation. Slow breathing paced at a resonance frequency of the cardiovascular system (~0.1Hz) modulates physiological arousal to external stimuli via feedback between the cardiovascular system and the brain. This proof-of-concept study will use electroencephalography (EEG) to measure brain response during cognitive processing tasks that involve alcohol cues and test the hypothesis that resonance breathing changes specific processing operations to reduce cue reactivity and support cognitive control. Attention bias and motivational significance are expected to diminish, and inhibitory control is expected to increase, when alcohol cues are encountered following resonance breathing, but not a control task. The relation of individual differences in drinking behaviors to intervention effects also will be explored. This study will provide novel information about potential mechanisms through which resonance breathing is linked in a time-varying manner to neural systems that modulate cue reactivity. The public health significance of an accessible (via mobile app), brief, and easily trained breathing technique to reduce alcohol cue salience is high, as cue reactivity and associated urges and craving are key precipitants of excessive drinking and relapse.

Dr. Jennifer Buckman and colleagues of the Athlete Health and Neuroscience Lab have been awarded funding for a new study. The grant focuses on the individual features of sleep that are predictive of and/or most sensitive to alcohol effects. This topic is important because chronic sleep deprivation and frequent excessive alcohol use are common on college campuses, and often overlap. Independently, both are tied to poorer psychological, physical, and academic wellness, yet the consequences of “layering” excessive alcohol use onto insufficient sleep are largely unexplored. The researchers will characterize sleep behavior and sleep architecture on a night before, a night of, and a night following a drinking bout. The study seeks to determine whether (1) sleep behaviors preceding a drinking event influence the immediate consequences of drinking measured from self-report and cardiovascular reactivity; (2) there are individual differences in how alcohol intoxication affects that night’s sleep quantity and quality, and (3) there are individual differences in ‘recovery sleep’ on the first non-drinking night following a drinking episode. More generally, this study will help to better characterize the relationships between sleep physiology, sleep behavior, and cardiovascular physiology.

Pilot Research Project in Traumatic Stress and Addiction: In January 2022, CAS will launch a new research project titled, “Bodily sensitivity to hangover effects and its relationship to blackout frequency: An interoceptive perspective on traumatic stress, led by Mateo Leganes-Fonteneau, Angelo DiBello, Jen Buckman, and Marsha Bates. Findings from this pilot study will be used in the future applications for extramural grants to improve trauma-prevention strategies through the role of interoception and bodily states in alcohol-related traumatic exposure. Further understanding of underlying mechanisms of excessive drinking can contribute to the development of prevention strategies to avoid blackout episodes, which in turn will help protect high-risk alcohol users from exposure to traumatic events.