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Research on Addictive Disorders (ROAD) Lab is a multidisciplinary program of research located in the Department of Psychology, City College of New York, City University of New York (Director and Principal Investigator, Lesia M. Ruglass, Ph.D.). Research conducted in ROAD lab incorporates a multi-modal approach including clinical trials, secondary data analysis, clinical assessments, and psychophysiological (e.g., EEG/ERP) approaches. ROAD lab is committed to training and mentoring students and scholars and uses research findings to inform the development of interventions to reduce the psychological and public health burden of health disparities, trauma/PTSD, and SUDs.

Research Aim(s)

  • Identify and understand the biobehavioral mechanisms underlying cannabis use disorder (CUD).
  • Identify and reduce tobacco-related cancer health disparities among Black and White cigarette smokers.
  • Understand and reduce health disparities (e.g., by race/ethnicity, gender/sex, and socioeconomic status) in treatment process and outcomes among individuals with co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders (SUDs).
  • Examine predictors and moderators of treatment outcomes among individuals with co-occurring PTSD and SUDs.

Active Research Projects

Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Attentional Bias Among Cannabis Users (PI: Ruglass):
Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. In 2016, there was an estimated 24 million current cannabis users (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-scope-marijuana-use-in-united-states.)  With increasing legalization across multiple states (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_cannabis_by_U.S._jurisdiction) and reduced perceptions of harm, cannabis use is expected to steadily increase.  In tandem, the potency of cannabis use has been steadily increasing over the years and studies have demonstrated the detrimental effects of cannabis on physical and psychological health thus contributing to significant public health concerns. This pilot study collected self-report, behavioral, and electroencephalogram (EEG)/Event Related Potential (ERP) data from 20 individuals with cannabis use disorders and 20 healthy controls to examine differences in the neural and behavioral correlates of attentional bias and cue reactivity to cannabis cues to inform our understanding of the biobehavioral mechanisms underlying cannabis use disorder. Results revealed that, compared to healthy controls, individuals with cannabis use disorders had poorer selective attention, impaired inhibitory control, and early attentional bias to cannabis cues. These findings enhance our understanding of the time course of cannabis cue processing and can inform the development of novel interventions for cannabis use disorders. The primary outcome paper from this project was published in the journal of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Collaborators included colleague Robert D. Melara, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, City College of New York; Alina Shevorykin, Ph.D., Pace University; and Naomi Dambreville, Ph.D., The City College of New York and The Graduate Center, CUNY. (This study was funded by the Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs at the American Psychological Association and the City College City Seeds Fund, PI: Ruglass).

Examining Differences in Attentional Bias to Smoking-related Cues among African American and White cigarette smokers (co-PI: Ruglass).
Smoking cigarettes remains a leading cause of preventable death worldwide (www.cdc.gov/tobacco). In 2016, 37.8 million adults were current cigarette smokers.  There has been a gradual decrease in cigarette use among the general US population due to aggressive tobacco control efforts, however, the benefits of these efforts are not distributed equally, and there are remarkable tobacco-related cancer health disparities (https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/disparities/index.htm). Black cigarette smokers maintain a disproportionate disease burden from smoking (i.e., they are more likely to experience and die from various cigarette smoking-related cancers) despite similar smoking prevalence rates and the initiation of smoking later in life.  Black smokers also have a more difficult time quitting cigarette smoking than Whites despite greater desire to quit. The aim of this study was to examine differences between Black and White cigarette smokers in the behavioral and neural correlates of attentional bias – a cognitive mechanism presumed to underlie tobacco use disorders and that may contribute to greater difficulty quitting. This pilot study collected self-report, behavioral, and EEG/ERP data from 20 Black and 11 White Cigarette Smokers. Preliminary results suggest White and Black smokers respond differently to smoking-related cues during early sensory processing. Collaborators included Robert D. Melara, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, City College of New York; James Root, Ph.D., Neuropsychologist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Christine Sheffer, Professor, Roswell Comprehensive Cancer Center; Alina Shevorykin, Ph.D., Pace University; and Naomi Dambreville, Ph.D., The City College of New York and The Graduate Center, CUNYThis study will be replicated with a larger sample size.

 (co-PI: Ruglass; This pilot study was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute (1P20CA192993 and P20CA192991). and 5P20CA192991 

PTSD/AOD Virtual Clinical Trial (VCT): Meta-Analysis with Individual Patient Data for PTSD and Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Use Disorders (Co-I: Ruglass).
PTSD and AOD are frequently co-occurring disorders. Individually, they each pose significant public health problems, which are substantially exacerbated by their comorbidity. The PTSD/AOD VCT study is a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism funded integrative data analysis project that will synthesize disparate data from 50 existing PTSD and alcohol and other drug disorders (AOD) treatment studies (resulting in a total of 4,544 study participants) to examine the relative efficacy of different AOD/PTSD treatments. Led by a team of experts in PTSD/AOD treatment and clinical trials from Rutgers Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies (Hien (MPI) & Ruglass), Research Triangle Institute (Morgan-Lopez (MPI) & Saavedra), Medical University of South Carolina (Back, Brady & Killeen) & Columbia University (Campbell), the VCT study will use three novel and sophisticated data analytic approaches- meta-analysis of individual patient data, integrative data analysis, and propensity score weighting- to provide clear and definitive recommendations regarding which PTSD/AOD treatments are optimally effective. It will also indicate who is more or less likely to benefit from specific treatments, and whether the mechanisms of change in these treatments are similar or distinct. (MPIs: Hien and Morgan-Lopez)

Translational Research Training in Addictions for Racial/ Ethnic Minorities at the City College of New York, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and Rutgers University (TRACC-RU; MPIs: Ruglass & Hien)
TRACC-RU aims to increase the number of scientists from underrepresented minority groups conducting translational addiction research.  According to a 2011 article in Science, a low percentage of minority scientists achieve success in research award funding despite years of field-wide diversification efforts. Additionally, as the field of translational neuroscience continues to expand, the numbers of qualified minority scientists with interdisciplinary training lags behind. TRACC-RU addresses these gaps by reaching earlier into the career development pipeline to identify and actively facilitate the professional success of the most talented racial/ethnic minority students. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) awarded $1.5 million to support TRACC’s mission during it’s first funding phase. TRACC capitalized on CCNY’s exceptional pool of diverse students, its renowned multidisciplinary faculty and a novel collaboration with substance use researchers at CUMC. TRACC has trained 27 researchers over the past seven years. With our recent 2020 renewal funding of $1.7 million, the program has now been expanded to Rutgers University (TRACC-RU). The collaboration with Rutgers expands the reach of this successful program and broadens access to scientific and methodological expertise of mentors. Trainees are selected from a pool of faculty-nominated CCNY graduate psychology students, CUNY Medical School BS/MD students, and Rutgers GSAPP graduate psychology students. For more information visit the website:  https://tracc.ccny.cuny.edu/. (MPIs: Ruglass and Hien)

Training Offered

Undergraduate and graduate students in psychology and related disciplines are invited to apply for volunteer positions in the ROAD lab at the City College of New York, CUNY.  Duties may include recruitment, screening, and assessment of study participants, data collection, data cleaning, and data analysis. Training and supervision provided.  Opportunities for conference poster and oral presentations and publication and grant writing are available for select students.  Students are required to attend a weekly 1-hour lab meeting and spend between 5-8 hours in the research lab per week.  If interested in joining the ROAD lab, send a brief statement of interest and your resume/cv to Dr. Lesia Ruglass at lruglass@ccny.cuny.edu


Core Faculty:
Lesia M. Ruglass, Ph.D., Director and Principal Investigator
Affiliated Faculty:
Denise A. Hien, Ph.D., ABPP
Robert Melara, Ph.D.