Current Research and Scholarly Interests
I am interested in cognitive and emotional mechanisms that contribute to initiation, development, maintenance and relapse to problematic alcohol and drug use. More specifically, I seek to understand why some individuals experiment with substances but eventually quit or moderate their use, while others go on to develop full blown substance use disorders (SUD). On the other end of the spectrum, I aim to identify and describe how these mechanisms influence treatment outcomes so as to help improve existing empirically supported treatments. My more recent interests involve how disruptions in attention, memory and higher order cognitive functions (executive functions; self-regulation; impulsivity) predispose individuals to SUD and associated risk behaviors (e.g.,violence) as well as impede recovery from SUD.
As a clinical psychologist, I have also developed a deep appreciation for the complex comorbidities that characterize SUD populations. Along this line, my work focuses on the co-occurrence of SUD and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - primarily because this subpopulation experiences far worse treatment and quality of life outcomes despite a higher utilization of services. My research is committed to understanding common "transdisease" processes and malleable risk factors (e.g., cognitive dysfunction, emotion dysregulation) that underlie and drive different SUD and commonly co-occurring mental health disorders. This information can then be used to translate research findings into targeted clinical interventions (e.g., computerized neuroscience-based cognitive training). The overarching goal is to examine the commonalities that transcend any one particular disorder, at multiple levels of analysis, so as to enhance scientific progress among all the disorders in which they operate.