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Jennifer Porter
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Last modified: Thursday, January 22, 2009

IU researchers receive $1.9 million NIH grant

Jan. 22, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Researchers in Indiana University's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences have received a five-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the role of cognitive and motivational processes in decision making and behavioral control in alcoholism and related disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and childhood conduct disorder.

The study, led by Professor Peter Finn, involves an interdisciplinary research team with expertise in clinical, cognitive and mathematical psychology. The department is in IU Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences.

This research began with the discovery that reduced attentional capacity and impulsive decision making were associated with early onset alcohol dependence. Finn's research showed that the same patterns of these characteristics were associated with marijuana and other drug abuse, childhood conduct problems and adult antisocial behavior.

Results of the research team's studies suggested that reduced attentional capacity and impulsive decision making reflected a vulnerability that was common to these different types of problems.

The new project funded by this grant is designed to study the specific processes that connect reduced attentional capacity with impulsive decision making and how these two factors appear to increase the risk for alcoholism, drug abuse and behavioral problems.

"This study has potential implications for treatment and prevention," Finn said. "If we can understand how attention and working memory are related to risky and impaired decision making, then we can develop treatments that target attention deficits and working memory deficits that can provide a means to improve self-control."

The study also includes the assessment of ADHD and how working memory and personality traits affect the tendency of ADHD patients to make impulsive choices.

For more information, visit the Biobehavioral Alcohol Research Laboratory lab Web site at