Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Research Roundup Winter 2014

Welcome to the latest research round up from the Addiction Research Group based in the Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool. We have been working very hard over the winter months (because typing keeps hands warm in badly heated offices), and this is what we have produced…

We have published three review papers covering a broad range of topics in addiction. 

The first by Pawel Jedras and colleagues, published in Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics (open access) examined the role of drug anticipation in addiction and reward. They examined the available evidence, discussing the necessary role of drug expectancy in conditioned responses to drug-related cues, the role of impulsivity and the underlying neural circuitry of anticipation. Finally, they provided a discussion of how perceived drug availability can lead to poor treatment responses and what might be done to mitigate this. 

Our second review was by Margot Peeters (who visited us from the Netherlands) with Matt Field. They conducted a narrative review, published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, summarising the evidence base for cognitive impairments in heavy drinking adolescents, with an emphasis on elucidating any causal relationship(s). They examined both cognitive impairments and impulsivity as risk factors for alcohol use in youth, but also the possibility that heavy drinking may cause further cognitive impairments and impulsiveness due to neurotoxic effects on the brain. 

Our final review paper was by Andy Jones and colleagues, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry (open access). The aim of this review was to identify the psychological and environmental variables that may cause state changes in (dis)inhibition leading to increases in drinking and drug use. Some of these variables include stress, self-control depletion and exposure to cues. They concluded that identifying these variables and targeting them for treatments may help reduce the risk of heavy drinking, drug use and relapse. 

We have also published some interesting original research:

Paul Christiansen published a paper in Drug and Alcohol Dependence demonstrating that individualised stimuli may increase the predictive validity of attentional bias tasks. Using a Stroop task containing words related to the individual’s favourite drink, they found performance predicted variance in drinking above and beyond performance on a Stroop using general alcohol words. This paper was a direct follow up to a commentary Paul and Matt published in 2012

Abi Rose and colleagues published a paper in Psychopharmacology, investigating the relationship between alcohol-induced risk taking using the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) and urge to drink. They found that alcohol increased risk taking and urge to drink. Furthermore, it was found that risk taking after alcohol consumption mediated alcohol priming, suggesting that those susceptible to alcohol-induced risk taking may be more likely to drink excessively, due to an increased urge to drink.

In other news, we have been travelling around the country to disseminate our research. 

The addiction group is a core member of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS), a leading centre of tobacco and alcohol research and policy excellence. The inaugural meeting of UKCTAS in York in September was attended by Matt Field, Abi Rose, Eric Robinson, Jay Duckworth, Lisa Di Lemma and Inge Kersbergen.

Matt Field attended the Society for the Study of Addiction conference in York in November and gave an invited talk on the contributions of basic science to our understanding of addiction.

Andy Jones, Eric Robinson and Matt Field also attended the UK Society for Behavioural Medicine (UKSBM) in Oxford in December.  Andy gave a poster and short oral presentation discussing ‘Response Inhibition in everyday life. Validating a mobile version of the Stop-Signal Task’. Eric gave an oral presentation entitled ‘GPs don't know what obesity looks like and this reduces their likelihood of initiating treatment’. Congratulations to Eric, who was awarded a prestigious early career award at UKSBM.

We also attended the North West Alcohol Conference, at the Hilton hotel in Liverpool in November. Jay, Inge and Natasha did an excellent job of summarising the conference highlights here

Finally, Matt is working as an advisor for Alcohol Concern’s Dry January campaign. If you are taking the challenge yourself and finding it a bit of a struggle, you can log on to the Facebook page or follow the Twitter feed for advice, details here

That is a wrap for this research roundup. Thank you for reading! As always, if you would like to get in touch about anything featured here please contact Prof. Matt Field, and if you are interested in taking part in our research please contact Andy Jones.

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