The Neuropsychoimaging Group studies brain function at the level of human behavior, cognition, and emotion. Special emphasis is given to drug addiction (crack/cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol), psychopathology (depression, post traumatic stress disorder) and other problem behaviors (aggression).
Research is pursued in a multidisciplinary/translational manner: we use neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and event-related potential (ERP) recordings, to derive measures of brain function (blood oxygen level dependent activation, glucose metabolism, receptor availability, electrical conductivity). We then embed these results within a behavioral context using neuropsychological assessment techniques. Behavioral observations, psychological questionnaires, psychiatric interviews, and behavioral measures of cognitive functioning are essential to our understanding of the neuropsychobiology of drug addiction and other problem behaviors.
This pyramid depicts our Neuropsychoimaging method of study. The complementary interrelationships between the various approaches to study the behaving human brain are emphasized by the bi-directional arrow. Specifically, our research incorporates the cutting-edge imaging technologies that are available here at BNL; we explore the benefits of cross-modality imaging (e.g., simultaneous ERP-fMRI recording) and design sensitive behavioral and neuropsychological assays, thus creating the translational capabilities that are at the cornerstone of neuropsychoimaging research.
Level I: Data obtained using computerized or paper-and-pencil measures of cognition (attention, memory, inhibitory control, decision-making), emotion and personality (anger, harm avoidance, depression), and behavioral tendencies (e.g., aggression) form the basis of this pyramid. All tests and measures are selected based on a-priori hypotheses about underlying neural pathways.
Level II: The thorough platform created at Level I, can then be used to provide answers to common neuropsychological questions. This is accomplished mostly through non-experimental techniques (i.e., without direct intervention or without control intervention) for the purpose of validating established theories or screening of novel ideas. In general, this platform serves for the continuous development or testing of behavioral assays that non-invasively target specific neural networks implicated in the core characteristics of drug addiction and other problem behaviors.
Level III: The next level in the pyramid allows for a more direct, although still correlational, study of the interplay between selected behavioral measures (e.g., inhibition of prepotent response tendencies as measured by the Stroop effect, see Goldstein et al., 2001; harm avoidance/fear as measured by MPQ, see Goldstein et al., 2002) and their putative neurobiological substrates (e.g., glucose metabolism in the orbitofrontal cortex as measured by PET FDG).
Level IV: At this level, a-priori hypotheses are tested experimentally: a well-controlled study (including a control group and a control intervention/condition) is designed for the fMRI, PET, or ERP environment.
Note that each level of the neuropsychoimaging method may serve for both exploratory and confirmatory purposes (e.g., fMRI/PET SPM voxel-by-voxel analyses vs. ROI analyses), depending on the design of the study and data analysis. Also note that each level is essential to our research: feedforward and feedback loops give rise to the comprehensive nature of the psychobiological study of human behavior.
Last Modified: May 26, 2009