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Behavioral and Brain Development Branch (BBDB)

What We Do:

The Behavioral and Brain Development Branch (BBDB) supports a spectrum of research and research training programs that addresses relationships among drug use/abuse/addiction, social/physical environment factors, and human development, with emphasis on neurodevelopmental, cognitive, and behavioral mechanisms that underlie these relationships. Studies cover the full developmental time course from prior to conception through adulthood and into senescence, and utilize a variety of behavioral and neuroscience research methods. The Branch supports research on a wide range of substances, including all illicit drugs, steroids, inhalants, abused prescription and over-the-counter medications, tobacco/nicotine, and alcohol when used in combination with other substances. Investigations involving relationships among development, drug use/abuse, and HIV/AIDS are encouraged. Also encouraged are studies of developmental processes that can inform drug abuse research, projects utilizing translational research approaches, gene-environment-development interaction studies, research involving comorbid mental health disorders, investigations of protective and resilience factors, and sex/gender analyses. Developmental intervention studies are relevant to multiple program areas supported by the Branch, as are studies intended to advance methodologies.

Research Programs:

Consequences of Youth Drug Use/Abuse on Brain and Behavioral Development in Adolescence and Young Adulthood

  • Characterization of the neurobiological consequences of drugs of abuse on the developing brain and the mechanisms underlying these consequences
  • Specific effects of drug use/exposure on emotional, affective, neuropsychological, neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric outcomes
  • Interaction of genes, environment and substance use/exposure and consequent effects on neurodevelopmental processes and outcomes
  • The relationships between the neurobiological aspects of development and the behavioral consequences of drug exposure
  • Development and refinement of methodologies to study human neural development, such as the adaptation of neuroimaging protocols and behavioral test measures

Development and the Etiology of Drug Use/Abuse and Other Risk Behaviors

  • Influences of brain and behavioral processes on the development of drug use, abuse, addiction, relapse, and associated risk behaviors
  • Neurobehavioral consequences of drug use/exposure and subsequent drug abuse vulnerability
  • Fetal origins of drug abuse vulnerability
  • Developmental neurobiology of drug use/abuse/addiction and other risky behaviors
  • Neurodevelopment of protective factors, resilience, and compensatory processes as they relate to drug use/abuse/addiction
  • Gene by environment by development interactions in the assessment of risk and drug vulnerability
  • Neural underpinnings of relationships between drug abuse and mental health disorders

Developmental Cognitive and Social Neuroscience

  • Neural mechanisms underlying cognitive, emotional, social, and other behavioral processes that can influence and may be related to substance use, abuse, and addiction
  • Neural basis of interrelationships between drug use/abuse and cognition/cognitive processes (e.g., attention, executive functioning, reward processing)
  • Developmental neuroscience approaches to understanding relationships between social/cognitive processes (e.g., affect regulation, moral development, decision-making) and drug use/drug abuse/other risky behaviors
  • Drug use/abuse as it affects, and is affected by, social information processing during development

Prenatal Exposure to Drugs

  • Effects of prenatal drug exposure on a broad range of developmental outcomes from the fetal period through young adulthood
  • The roles of multiple prenatal and postnatal risk and protective factors that co-occur with prenatal drug exposure (e.g., physical and social environment including parenting)
  • Prenatal drug exposure, adolescent substance use/abuse and HIV-related risk behaviors

Human Development

  • Development of neurobiological, neurocognitive, neurobehavioral and neurogenetic processes that can inform substance abuse research

Environmental Influences on Neurobehavioral Development

  • Drug-using environments (e.g., parenting practices, attachment, peer influences, social/environmental contexts) and neurobehavioral development
  • Second-hand or passive exposure to substances of abuse
  • Gene x environment x development interactions

HIV/AIDS, Substance Use and Development

  • Neurobiological, cognitive and/or behavioral development of HIV-infected and/ or antiretroviral therapy (ART)-exposed children, adolescents and young adults
  • Effects of drug use on sexual risk behaviors associated with HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases
  • Effects of HIV/AIDS infection on risk behaviors, particularly drug-seeking behavior
  • Development of the neurobiological, cognitive, emotional and behavioral processes underlying behaviors associated with risk for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases
  • Health and neurobehavioral development of youth affected by substance use and HIV/AIDS, that is youth who have a parent, caregiver, or family member with HIV/AIDS

Developmental Interventions

  • Development, implementation and evaluation of interventions to ameliorate negative consequences of drug use/exposure on neurodevelopment and behavioral functioning
  • Areas of interventions include neurobiology, neurocognition, behavior, parenting, and environment

Staff Interests:

  • Cheryl Anne Boyce, Ph.D. - Branch Chief and Associate Director for Child and Adolescent Research
    • Early Influences on Drug Use Vulnerability
    • Trauma and Stress, including Child Abuse and Neglect
    • Pediatric Translational Research
    • Developmental Psychopathology
    • Health Disparities
    • Family and Community Mental Health
    • HIV/AIDS and Health Risk Behaviors
  • Karen Sirocco, Ph.D.- Deputy Branch Chief
    • Clinical Neuropsychology
    • Cognitive Neuroscience
    • Comorbid Mental Health Disorders
    • Consequences of Youth Drug Use/Abuse

This page was last updated December 2011