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Queen's University

MotiCog Lab

Influenced by Impulse in International Innovation

Impulsivity in Addiction

Drug addiction is characterized by two behavioural traits: compulsion to take the drug (drug-seeking) and loss of control in limiting drug intake (impulsivity). Based on decades of research, we have a detailed understanding of the environmental and physiological factors that influence compulsive drug use. We know far less about the impulsive aspects of drug addiction although our research (and that of many colleagues around the world) is helping to uncover the mechanisms that lead to uncontrolled drug use.

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Developmental Neurobiology

Early life experiences have a profound impact on both behavioural and biological development. For example, children who live in abusive or neglectful environments exhibit altered physiological responses to stress when they are adults, and have an increased likelihood of developing psychiatric disorders including addiction.

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Chronic Pain and Affective States

Chronic pain affects up to 1/3 of Canadian adults, rates that are similar to those in other developed countries.  Chronic pain is notoriously difficult to treat, partly because the effectiveness of most analgesics declines with use (tolerance).  In addition, chronic pain often leads to severe emotional disturbances including clinical states of anxiety and depression.  Both of these topics are investigated in our lab through a collaboration with Dr. Catherine Cahill at the University of California, Irvine.

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      Novel Analgesic Mechanisms

      Opiates are powerful analgesics, but their clinical use is hindered by side effects, tolerance, and concerns about dependence and addiction. A resolution to this problem may be provided by the paradoxical effects of ultra-low-dose opioid antagonists. Recently we found that this phenomenon extends to the cannabinoid system.

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      Motivation-Cognition Interactions in Humans

      Disruptions in motivation and/or cognition are common symptoms of many psychiatric disorders. By studying these from different perspectives, we hope to gain an understanding of how motivational and cognitive processes interact in both ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ states.

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      Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000