Featured Specialty: Addiction
The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute pursues a range of programs and projects aimed at understanding the decision-making processes that support addiction and other dysfunctional behaviors.
Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Addiction
People who are addicted to stimulants tend to choose instant gratification or a smaller but sooner reward over a future benefit, even if the future reward is greater. Reduced value of a future reward, called “delay discounting” by neuroscientists, is the major challenge for the treatment of addiction. Dr. Warren Bickel researches why people devalue the future, and how to help change that.
Under the direction of Dr. Bickel, the institute’s Addiction Recovery Research Center seeks to:
• Tease out the molecular, genetic, physiological, and behavioral aspects of all phases of substance abuse and addiction, from adolescence through adulthood;
• Devise methods to understand, prevent, and treat addiction;
• Develop new methods to directly measure chemical reward signals in the brain;
• Understand the decision-making processes that support dysfunctional behavior;
• Seek novel therapeutic approaches to repair those processes;
• Determine how to apply this knowledge to break the cycle of addiction, craving, and relapse;
• Create precise methods for measuring valuation of the future to help people make healthy choices; and
• Capture the wisdom of those who have triumphed over addiction through the International Quit & Recovery Registry.
The International Quit & Recovery Registry, a major initiative of the center’s, is an online community that not only celebrates and encourages recovery, but also provides insights to addictions scientists around the world.
Addiction and Depression
Dr. Pearl Chiu researches the connection between addiction and depression. She works to quantify how a depressed individual might value nothing at all, while an addicted individual might value drug consumption at the expense of everything else. Dr. Chiu uses multiple converging methods to examine the neurobiology of human motivation and social decision-making.