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My commitment to research on human alcoholism began about 30 years ago when I joined the Neuroimaging Group at Stanford. I brought to this research collaboration my background as an experimental neuropsychologist working in amnesic syndromes, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease at MIT and gained from the collaboration experience and expertise as a brain imaging scientist at Stanford. These experiences provided complementary understanding on the potential of establishing brain structure-function relations for the first time in Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). This background led to the development of my program of study in AUD, focusing on faulty frontocerebellar circuitry as underlying a selective subset of cognitive and motor dysfunctions commonly expressed in people with AUD. Toward this end, I was granted a MERIT Award, which resulted in dozens of publications describing cognitive, sensory, and motor sequelae of chronic, excessive alcohol drinking and identifying neural mechanisms of impairment. This project became the centerpiece of my program of research that has included international studies on AUD, investigation of cognitive and motor process selectively disrupted in AUD+HIV infection comorbidity, comparison brain structural and functional profiles of Mild Cognitive Impairment and AUD, and rodent models of chronic exposure to high levels of alcohol. I am also engaged in a multi-site consortium study aimed at determining the developmental trajectories of brain, neuropsychological, and emotional development of adolescents and to track deviations from normal trajectories in adolescents who initiate excessive alcohol drinking and measure recovery in those who stop drinking. Coupled with my decade long NIAAA K05 Senior Mentor Award, this integrated research program provides a rich environment for mentoring promising young investigators.
Application of neuroimaging modalities and component process analysis of cognitive, sensory, and motor functions to identify brain structural and functional mechanisms disrupted in diseases affecting the brain: alcohol use disorder (AUD), HIV infection, dementia, and normal aging from adolescence through senescence. Structural and functional MRI, MR spectroscopy, and MR diffusion tensor imaging are applied in animal models of alcoholism in parallel with the human studies. A multi-site research project prospectively examines the development of the adolescent brain and neuropsychological function and how initiation of hazardous drinking and consumption of other drugs of abuse alter the normal trajectory of brain structure and function (National Consortium on Alcohol and NeuroDevelopment in Adolescence: NCANDA.org). My long-standing NIAAA-funded project focuses on the potential interaction of drinking—whether at AUD or lower levels—and dementia.