This is the Summer 2013 research roundup from the Addiction Research Group based in the Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool. We have been hard at work throughout the ‘heatwave’ and (more typical) downpours of our British summer. The fruits of our labours can be seen below...
Top spot goes to Gordon Fernie (a former post-doc) and colleagues who published a study in Addiction (Open Access) which looked at bidirectional relationships between three measures of behavioural impulsivity (delay discounting, risk-taking, and disinhibition) and alcohol involvement among adolescents. They measured impulsivity and alcohol involvement in 287 adolescents at five time points over the course of two years. The results show that individual differences in performance on three measures of behavioural impulsivity each predicted alcohol involvement six months later. However, alcohol involvement did not predict subsequent impulsivity. This study is the first to show that those three measures of impulsivity predict alcohol involvement after fairly short follow-up periods of six months. This press release generated a bit of media coverage, some of which can be seen here.
Andy Jones worked with Andrej Stancak on a study that was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, examining electrophysiological markers of response conflict during disinhibition and their relationship with alcohol consumption. They demonstrated that when individuals performed a stop signal task (a measure of inhibitory control), the magnitude of the P300 component of the event-related potential during inhibition was inversely correlated with increased alcohol consumption during a subsequent laboratory taste test. This suggests that better inhibition (as inferred from brain activity during a task that requires inhibitory control) is associated with reduced consumption of alcohol. This was the first study to directly examine the relationship between electrophysiological markers of inhibitory control, and alcohol-seeking.
Matt Field organised and edited a special issue on Addiction for The Journal of Experimental Psychopathology. The issue covered some of the current 'hot topics' in addictive behaviours including social influences, negative affect, motivated attention, implicit cognitive processes and disinhibition. Our research group contributed two papers for the special issue. We collaborated with colleagues from the Netherlands on a paper examining motivated attention (again using electrophysiological measures) in alcohol-dependent patients seeking treatment. Andy Jones and other colleagues at Liverpool also published a research paper that explored the effects of alcohol-related cues and contexts on disinhibited behaviour, a study that was conducted in our Bar Lab.
We contributed two review papers for a forthcoming special issue of CNS Spectrums. The first discusses the clinical relevance of attentional bias in substance use disorders and the second discusses pharmacological modulation of these biases. Staying on the topic of attentional bias, Matt Field wrote a critical commentary of a paper published in the journal European Addiction Research. You can find this, and other commentaries here.
In other news…
We are delighted to welcome Dr Charlotte Hardman to our research group. An appetite and obesity researcher by trade, Charlotte has been working closely with the addiction group on projects related to food addiction and attentional bias to rewarding cues.
The addiction research group has expanded... for the summer at least! We are pleased to welcome a group of summer students who are working on research projects in addiction and motivated behaviour:
Marianne Erskine-Shaw, under the supervision of Abi Rose is working on a project examining alcohol intoxication and attentional bias. Her studentship was funded by the British Psychological Society. Jade Scott is working with Charlotte Hardman on attentional bias to food and alcohol cues, and Rebecca Dallas is working with Eric Robinson on a project examining the effects of peer influences on drinking behaviours in our Bar Lab. Both Jade and Rebecca are funded by the School of Psychology, University of Liverpool.
Our research group played a (small) part in a successful application for funding from the National Institute for Health Research, details here. The broad aim of the funding is to investigate how to improve mental health care, and our group will be looking at interventions to reduce problem drinking.
Paul Christiansen also received a grant from Alcohol Research UK to investigate beliefs about the acute effects of alcohol on impaired control over drinking, both in the laboratory and normal day-to day life. More on this later....
Finally, we have been getting out and about to disseminate our research! Matt Field, Pawel Jedras, Andy Jones and Paul Christiansen all attended the British Association for Psychopharmacology summer meeting in Harrogate. Pawel, Andy and Paul all gave a poster presentation on some of their current projects. Pawel also gave a short oral presentation in a symposium on reward and choice. You can spot us talking shop in some pictures from the conference at the BAP’s facebook page. Some of Abi Rose's data was presented at the World Congress of World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies (WCBCT) meeting in Lima, Peru in July. Slightly more exotic than Harrogate.
That's it! If you are based in Liverpool and are interested in taking part in some of our research, you can email Andy Jones for information about studies that are running at the moment.