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Addiction Recovery Research Center

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About the Addiction Recovery Research Center

Addiction undermines health and safety, sometimes with fatal consequences. It damages families, friendships and livelihoods. At the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, researchers work at the intersection of behavioral study and neuroscience to target the impaired decision-making processes of people with addictive behaviors to understand their self-control deficits. 


Behavioral Economics - A new field in the scientific world that unites the behavior analysis subfield of psychology with economic models of purchasing and consumption. This provides powerful tools for predicting and manipulating health-related and drug abuse behaviors.

Biometrics - Confirmation of self-report is frequently combined with quickly administered biometrics such as Carbon Monoxide or alcohol levels in the breath, and Cotinine present in urine. Heart rate and blood pressure may also be used to determine cue reactivity and monitor ongoing participant safety. 

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)- fMRI measures changes in the properties of blood throughout the brain. In general, the more a brain area is being used, the more oxygen it needs for energy. As hemoglobin in the blood releases oxygen for energy, an indirect measure of brain activity is obtained. Measuring these functional changes during various types of tasks, together with structural MRI data, can reveal compromised brain function in important brain areas related to addiction.

Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), also known as diffusion MRI, measures the movement of molecules, mainly water, throughout the body. In the brain, water movement can serve as an indirect measure of tissue integrity.

Bar Laboratory - Pioneered by Dr. James MacKillop, this laboratory space replicates the look and feel of a small private bar. Participants are monitored as they self-administer alcohol within a controlled but realistic environment. This transforms predicted behavior from modeled theory to real world observation of live exhibited behavior. 

Smoking Laboratory - A negative air-flow room with behavioral booths that allows for participants to self-administer nicotine containing products including cigarettes while taking behavioral assessments. Much like the bar lab, the smoking lab allows observation of real time consumption behaviors.

Remote Survey - Tools like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk or our own Quit and Recovery Registry can help rapidly administer surveys to a broad and widespread sample. The Registry focuses on studying people who have recovered from drug abuse habits and hopes to shed light on factors that contribute towards success in that process.  

Brain Stimulation Approaches - Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)- uses electromagnetic induction to increase or decrease brain activity in specific cortical areas. Understanding natural functional processes can help guide TMS stimulation parameters in effort to establish or reestablish healthy brain function in individuals suffering from addiction. TMS is currently FDA approved as a treatment for depression and anxiety. Our lab utilizes cutting edge TMS procedures pioneered by Dr. Coleen Hanlon.

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) - tDCS works by sending constant, low direct current through the electrodes positioned on the surface of the head. This current flow can either increase or decrease neuronal excitability and alter brain activity.

Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation (tACS) - Similar to tDCS, tACS passes current between electrodes positioned outside the head. In this case, however, the alternating current applied is sinusoidal.

Why do some people overcome addiction while others relapse? To gain insights into recovery, we launched the International Quit & Recovery Registry, which taps the wisdom and experiences of those in recovery from an addiction. With their help, the Addiction Recovery Research Center will advance the science of recovery and translate these insights into new treatments.

International Quit & Recovery Registry

A great deal of research has focused on understanding addiction and developing more effective addiction treatments, yielding a wealth of new knowledge in these areas. However, very little research has been directed towards those people who are in recovery from an addiction, particularly towards those people who quit engaging in their addiction on their own without professional treatment. The International Quit & Recovery Registry enables those who have recovered from an addiction to share their stories and make themselves available to be contacted for future research on individuals in recovery.

Would you like to participate in a research study? 

The Addiction Recovery Research Center at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC conducts human studies of addiction to target the impaired decision-making processes of people with addictive behaviors to understand their self-control deficits. Research participants contribute to science and help scientists understand human health and decision-making. Volunteers also learn about the research process. Your willingness to participate is a testament to your commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and potentially improving the lives of millions of people with health problems.






Presented by the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and co-hosted by the Addiction Recovery Research Center