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2011 March

Using the Internet to Recruit Immigrants with Limited English Proficiency for Tobacco Use and Alcohol-Related Disorders Screening: A Pilot Study Among Brazilian Immigrants

Beatriz H. Carlini, PhD, MPH, Research Scientist
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute

Description: Twenty-four million adults in the US report limited English proficiency (LEP) and together speak more than a hundred other languages at home. Due to linguistic barriers, LEP individuals face disparities in access to health services, including tobacco cessation and alcohol abuse treatment. As Internet access among this population has been growing quickly, development of web-based interventions present an opportunity to offer evidence-based support for behavior change in diverse languages. However, attempts to recruit LEP individuals via the Internet for research studies utilizing recruitment methods that are effective for mainstream populations have had little success. The objective of the proposed research is to identify recruitment strategies that are effective in reaching online immigrants with LEP to participate in studies involving tobacco use and alcohol-related disorders. The focus will be on a subset of the LEP Latino population, Brazilian Portuguese speakers.

This pilot study will explore the recruitment potential of online approaches that address aspects of Latino immigrant socialization patterns in the US including: a) low trust in mainstream society; b) reliance on personal networks to obtain support, services, and information, and c) strong identification with country of origin as opposed to the Latino/Hispanic category. We will utilize a mix of recruitment methods including emails from trusted sources, banners on online newspapers that support personal networks specific to Brazilians, and target ads on Facebook. The relative success of the recruitment methods tested will inform future research proposals to assess feasibility and preliminary efficacy of web-based tobacco cessation support to LEP individuals.

Resulting articles & projects:

  • Carlini BH, Safioti L, Rue T, Miles L. Using Internet to recruit immigrants with language and culture barriers for tobacco and alcohol use screening - a study among Brazilians. Journal of Immigrant Minority Health 2013 (in press)
  • Study findings were used to inform a grant proposal submitted to the National Cancer Institute: Improving Cessation Support for Smokers with Language Barriers (1 R21 CA178146-01).
  • Online recruitment of individuals with Limited English Proficiency - a pilot study of tobacco and alcohol dependence screening among Brazilian immigrants. Poster presented at the 34th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, March 20-23, 2013, San Francisco, CA.

Reducing Sexual Assault Risk and Alcohol Use in College Women

Amanda K. Gilmore, MS, Predoctoral Student

William H. George, PhD (Mentor)

Description: College women are at high risk for heavy drinking and sexual assault. In addition, drinking and sexual assault have consistently been found to be related, such that women with a sexual assault history drink more and women who drink are at higher risk for sexual assault. Despite the finding that alcohol is a critical risk factor for sexual assault, alcohol has not been included as a primary component in sexual assault risk reduction (SARR) programs. This project will involve 2 phases. Phase 2 includes developing and programming the alcohol and sexual assault risk reduction programs. In Phase 1, the web-based personalized feedback alcohol intervention will be programmed. A web-based SARR will also be developed and piloted utilizing effective components of previous SARR programs for college women including sexual assault education, targeting sexual assault myths, and risk reduction strategies and skills. Finally, a risk reduction program combining the alcohol intervention and SARR will be developed. In addition, Phase 2 will evaluate that efficacy of a combined web-based personalized feedback alcohol intervention and sexual assault risk reduction (SARR) program (alcohol + SARR) compared to a personalized feedback alcohol intervention only condition, a SARR only condition, and an assessment only control condition on drinking behaviors and sexual assault-related outcomes over a three month period. Other outcome measures will include alcohol use, protective drinking strategies, the use of sexual assault risk reduction strategies, sexual assault knowledge, sexual assault myths, alcohol use prior to sexual activity, and sexual assertiveness. The results from this study will be used to incorporate alcohol reduction programs in SARR programs.

Role of the Lateral Habenula in Relapse to Cocaine-Seeking Behavior

Sunila Nair, PhD, Senior Fellow
Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

John Neumaier, MD, PhD (Mentor)

Description: An important problem in the treatment of cocaine addiction is the vulnerability of previously addicted individuals to relapse to cocaine use months or even years after abstinence. Longitudinal studies, retrospective studies, and laboratory studies suggest that an important factor in relapse to cocaine (as well as to other drugs of abuse and non-drug reinforcers) is exposure to stressful situations. Though studies of relapse to drug seeking in experimental animals, primarily rodents, using the sophisticated self-administration-reinstatement procedure have provided invaluable information on the neurobiological basis of stress-induced relapse, the behavioral and neurochemical events that contribute to this form of drug relapse are still not completely understood.

The lateral habenula, a part of the habenular complex in the dorsal diencephalon, has very recently become a brain region of great interest. This nucleus, uniquely positioned anatomically to participate in reward-related brain circuits, is an important regulator of midbrain dopaminergic systems, which are known to be involved in relapse to cocaine seeking. However, very little is known about the precise role of this nucleus in cocaine relapse. Using the self-administration-reinstatement procedure, we propose to directly examine the role of the lateral habenula in relapse to cocaine seeking using state-of-the-art molecular and genetic targeting approaches. We hypothesize that recruitment of lateral habenula neurons is critical for stress-induced reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior. This work will help increase understanding of the role of this brain region in the processes that underlie cocaine addiction. Further, the precise dissection of neural circuits that regulate relapse to cocaine seeking will have significant value in guiding the development of pharmacological treatments targeted in treating cocaine addiction.

Resulting articles & projects:

  • Nair SG, Strand NS, Neumaier JF. DREADDing the lateral habenula: a review of methodological approaches for studying lateral habenula function. Brain Res. 2013 May 20;1511:93-101. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2012.10.011. Full text in Pubmed Central.
  • Nair SG, Smirnov D, Neumaier JF. Effect of DREADD-mediated modulation of G-protein coupled signaling in the lateral habenula on cocaine-reinforced operant responding Society for Neuroscience Abstract 733.10/FF2 (2013)
  • Dr. Nair received a R21 grant from NIDA using pilot data from this project to support the application. "Chemical-Genetic Dissection of the Role of the Lateral Habenula in Cocaine Relapse" was funded by NIDA from 8/01/13--7/31/15. Details in NIH Reporter
  • The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation’s NARSAD Young Investigator grant. DREADD’ed relapse: Investigating the role of the lateral habenula in food seeking behaviors (Role: Principal Investigator) 3/1/2014 – 2/29/2016; $30,000/year
  • NIH K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award: Genetic dissection of lateral habenula neuronal circuitry in cocaine seeking (Role: Principal Investigator) 9/15/2015- 8/31/2019 Details in NIH Reporter

2011 October

Does Behavioral Stress Exposure Affect Cocaine Self-Adminstration by Rats THrough a Dynorphin / Kapp Opioid Receptor Dependent Mechanism?

Charles Chavkin, PhD, Professor

Description: Stress increases craving, drug seeking behaviors and relapse of consumption in drug-addicted people, but the mechanisms responsible are not clear. We recently found that pairing stress with exposure to an addictive drug (cocaine or nicotine) increases the preference that a mouse will show for a compartment previously paired with the drug. This is the standard conditioned place preference (CPP) assay, and we have used mouse genetic approaches to define the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved. Stress activates the endogenous dynorphin-kappa opioid system to increase the rewarding valence of addictive drugs, but interpretation of this CPP data and its relevance to human drug addiction are not completely clear. Further progress requires that we adopt drug-self administration methods, but these are technically challenging. Paul Phillips’ lab has agreed to teach wo members of my group how to obtain and interpret data using equipment in a behavioral core facility that they recently set up, and ADAI support would enable this new research direction. The otivational components underlying drug self-administration behaviors can be partially resolved by ppropriate design of the operant contingencies. We propose to test whether stress exposure increases the effort the rat will expend to obtain cocaine (using progressive ratio and break point analyses); whether stress increases perseveration of drug seeking behaviors (lever pressing in the absence of drug-availability cues and resistance to extinction); and whether stress increases the probability of lever pressing when drug delivery is paired with mild foot-shock. The possible role of dynorphin in mediating the potentiating effects of stress will be identified using the kappa receptor antagonist norBNI. Pilot data from this project are necessary to support an R01 application that we have planned, and this support will be important to further address the hypothesis that kappa opioid receptor antagonists may be useful therapeutic tools in treating drug addiction.

Resulting articles & projects:

  • Groblewski, P.A., Zietz, C., Willuhn, I., Phillips, P.E.M., Chavkin, C. (2014) Repeated stress exposure causes strain-dependent shifts in the behavioral economics of cocaine in rats. Addiction Biology 20:297-301. Full text in Pubmed Central
  • This study was helpful in the development of a NIDA-funded grant to Dr. Chavkin: "P38 MAPK Mechanisms of Kappa Opioid-induced Aversion" (R01DA030074). Details in NIH Reporter.
  • The equipment purchased with ADAI funds enabled the investigators to build a drug-self administration facility that is still being productive.

Role of Cortocostriatal Projections in Cocaine Self-Administration

Susan Ferguson, PhD, Assistant Professor
Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Description: The cortico-basal ganglia system is a complex neural network involved in motivation and reward. Dysfunction of this circuitry has been implicated in many neuropsychiatric disorders, including drug addiction. The striatum acts as the primary interface of this circuit, and guides behavioral output through two pathways, the ‘direct’ and the ‘indirect’. Cortical pyramidal neurons provide a major excitatory input into the striatum, and glutamate regulates changes in striatal neuron plasticity. However, the striatum also receives glutamatergic inputs from other brain regions and corticostriatal neurons can be sub-divided into two major types with distinct projections targets, morphologies and electrophysiological properties. Cortical neurons that project intratelencephalically (IT-type) preferentially target ‘direct’ pathway striatal neurons whereas cortical neurons that send their main axon into the pyramidal tract and have a collateral projection to the striatum (PT-type) preferentially target ‘indirect’ pathway striatal neurons. How cortical inputs into the striatum regulate the rewarding and incentive-motivational properties of drugs has not been well-characterized, and there is no information on the role of the two sub-types of pyramidal neurons in addiction-related behaviors. Thus, the overall aim of the proposed experiments is to develop and use novel molecular targeting approaches to directly assess the function of corticostriatal projections in drug reward. We hypothesize that activation of corticostriatal neurons is critical for drug self-administration. This work will allow for the development of a novel class of viral vectors that express genes under a Cre-recombinase-dependent system to probe the function of specific corticostriatal circuits in a reversible manner. Through modeling how loss of topdown control from cortical inputs into the basal ganglia contribute to behaviors that are associated with a transition to addiction, we will gain a better understanding of the intricacies of this circuitry, which is likely to have a big impact on the development and application of treatments for addicts.

Coping with Discrimination: Alcohol Abuse in Filipino(a) American Young Adults

Andrew Paves, BS, Graduate Student

Mary E. Larimer, PhD, Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences (Mentor)

Description: Filipino Americans (Fil-Ams) are currently the second largest Asian and Pacific Islander (API) American group in the United States. Compared to other APIs, Fil-Ams are a suspected-at-risk group for problematic alcohol use. Fil-Ams also report experiencing discrimination at higher rates than other APIs, and it has been hypothesized that alcohol use is a means to cope with discrimination. Ethnic identity, the extent to which one identifies with his/her ethnic group, may impact the relationship that discrimination has on health outcomes, including alcohol use. The proposed research will examine the extent to which Fil-Ams use alcohol to cope with discrimination, and whether or not ethnic identity is related to this process. The specific aims are as follows: (1) develop measures for ethnic identity and discrimination that accurately assess experiences that are unique to Fil-Ams; (2) pilot test the new measures for validity and reliability; (3) assess the relationship between discrimination, coping, and alcohol use; and (4) assess the role of ethnic identity as a potential moderator in the relationship between discrimination, coping, and alcohol use. To accomplish Aim 1, in person focus groups will be conducted to gather preliminary information on ethnic identity and discrimination experiences of Fil-Ams. Measures will be created based on items from existing measures and focus group discussions and then pilot tested (Aim 2). For Aims 3-4, Fil-Am young adults will be recruited to complete a crosssectional battery of online measures regarding alcohol use and related problems, discrimination, coping, and ethnic identity. The research will address important knowledge gaps regarding the variability in alcohol use across specific API groups, and will provide the basis for the PI’s future grant proposals pursuing culturally appropriate interventions to prevent and treat problematic drinking among Fil-Ams as well as etiological research with other API subgroups.

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