Project 1

Interdisciplinary Research on Stress, Self-Control & Addiction

Rajita Sinha, PhD

Consortium Leader: Rajita Sinha

Tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption and overconsumption of rich and high fat ‘comfort’ foods are the top three causes of preventable death and disease in the US today. The persistent and compulsive engagement in these addictions despite serious health, social and legal consequences is a common feature. Emerging data indicate that self control mechanisms are critical in perpetuating this compulsive engagement in addictive behaviors.

Stress, which plays a key role in addiction, other psychiatric illnesses and in many chronic diseases, also facilitates lapses in self control. Although research on the links between stress and addiction, stress and psychiatric disorders and stress and chronic diseases exists, systematic research on the interactions between stress, self control and addiction have been rare. This three-way interplay between stress, self control and addiction is complex, and requires an interdisciplinary (ID) conceptual framework with collaborative team-based approaches of study that include the multiple brain, body, behavioral and social systems.

We therefore propose an interdisciplinary research consortium on stress, self control and addiction (IRCSSA) that brings together over 50 leading scientists who conduct research relevant to a number of NIH Institutes (NIMH, NIA, NIDA, NIAAA, NHLBI, NCI, NICHD, NIDDK, NIEHS, NINDS, NIDCD). These experts representing 20 disciplines that span 5 schools (Medicine, Arts and Sciences, Management, Nursing and Public Health) and three academic Institutions will collaborate as a team to:

  1. identify mechanisms underlying the development of stress-related effects on self-control in the addictive behaviors of smoking, drinking and overeating;
  2. evaluate self-control mechanisms in the pathophysiology of chronic stress and addiction, and
  3. develop social, behavioral and pharmacological strategies to increase self-control and decrease these addictive behaviors. These goals will be accomplished using animal models (non-human primate and rodents) and human studies that include children and adults. Achieving these goals will have a direct impact in reducing morbidity and mortality resulting from each of these disorders.

The goals will be achieved by addressing the following specific aims:

  1. To establish an interdisciplinary research consortium by bringing together leading biological, behavioral and social scientists to examine the mechanisms underlying stress, self-control and addictive behaviors;
  2. To conduct programmatic, team-based collaborative research to understand the processes underlying stress and self control that promote and maintain compulsive smoking, drinking and overeating;
  3. To develop new social, behavioral and pharmacological prevention and treatment strategies to decrease stress, increase self-control and prevent and decrease addictive behaviors;
  4. To foster career development and mentoring of interested students and scientists from varied disciplines in collaborative, interdisciplinary research on stress, self control, addiction and related chronic diseases; and
  5. To disseminate research findings to professional audiences and the public, including partnering with the community to collaboratively address emerging social, health policy and bioethical issues raised by studies of stress, self-control and addictive behaviors.