En español
NIDA

Menu

Altruistic decision making focus of NIDA's Addiction Science Award

New York high school senior looks at the behavioral economics of intergenerational preferences

May 13, 2011

A study of what influences decision making on issues whose consequences will only be felt by future generations won first prize in the annual Addiction Science Awards at this year's Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) -- the world's largest science competition for high school students. The Intel ISEF Addiction Science Awards were presented at an awards ceremony Thursday night in Los Angeles. The awards were presented by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and Friends of NIDA, a coalition that supports NIDA's mission.

Addiction Science Award Winners Darby Schumacher (2nd place), Yamini Naidu (3rd place), Sarah Pak (1st place), and Susan Weiss, Chief Judge for NIDA. Addiction Science Award Winners Darby Schumacher (2nd place), Yamini Naidu (3rd place), Sarah Pak (1st place)

First place distinction went to Sarah Susie Pak, a 17-year-old senior at Roslyn High School in Roslyn Heights, N.Y., for her project Would You Do It for the Kids? Factors Involved in the Prediction of Intergenerational Preferences. The project was based on well-known phenomenon, called delayed discounting, in which people tend to discount the value of a reward that will be received at a later time vs. an immediate, but smaller, reward. Delayed discounting is abnormally high in people who are addicted to drugs and contributes to their impulsive risk taking behaviors, especially drug use. Pak's project identified generosity and patience as two key interacting factors that increase the likelihood that a person will make altruistic decisions that will primarily help future generations. The senior plans to attend Princeton in the fall.

"Our first place winner took a fresh look at delayed discounting at the social and generational level," said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "Her studies illuminate aspects of neuroeconomics that are relevant not only to drug abuse and addiction, but that could have far reaching social, ethical, and public health policy implications."

Second place distinction in the Addiction Science Awards went to Darby Kathryn Schumacher, a 15-year-old freshman at the Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga, Tenn. Her project, Making Heartbeats Go LOKO, investigated the effects of the alcoholic caffeinated beverage branded as Four Loko on the heart rate of the water flea (Daphnia). She chose to use this invertebrate model to test the effects of Four Loko not only because Daphnias show clear signs of intoxication when exposed to alcohol, but also because their heart rate can be easily monitored through their translucent bodies. She was able to demonstrate that alcohol, a depressant, and caffeine, a stimulant, can lower and boost Daphnia's heart rate, respectively. The caffeine content in Four Loko appears to have partially mitigated the depressant effect of the alcohol present in this beverage, supporting the notion that the caffeine in alcoholic energy drinks could mask some of alcohol's behavioral effects, making the user less aware of the true extent of their impairment.

"Ms. Schumacher took a simple model of a nervous system that recreates some of the most basic features of human physiology to show how the combination of a stimulant and a depressant can affect heart function," said Dr. Susan Weiss, NIDA's head judge and acting director of the Office of Science Policy and Communications. "She took a systematic and elegant approach to demonstrate why these drinks can be dangerous." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning notices to manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages in November 2010.

Third place went to 16-year-old Yamini T. Naidu, a student at Valley Catholic High School in Beaverton, Ore., for her entry, From Models to Medications: Identification of Medication Leads for Treating Methamphetamine Addiction. Using molecular modeling software that incorporated eye-catching 3D structural illustrations and vivid computer animations, Naidu discovered two potential sites in the methamphetamine binding TAA receptor. Her work predicted that these sites could have the ability to modulate the binding affinity of methamphetamine for this receptor. This work has resulted in the development of several lead compounds that are the subject of pending patents for possible novel medications for methamphetamine addiction. There are currently no medications approved for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction; thus, these lead compounds represent a potentially exciting new development in the addiction treatment field. The sophomore says she became interested in neuroscience after her uncle died of a stroke.

The non-profit organization, Friends of NIDA, partnered with NIDA to sponsor the awards as part of its ongoing support of NIDA research into the causes, consequences, and treatment of drug abuse and addiction.

"We are delighted to see three young women win this year, and we hope these awards encourage them to continue their interest in addiction science," said Dr. William Dewey, Louis S. and Ruth S. Harris Professor and Chair, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, and president and chair of the Executive Committee, Friends of NIDA. The awards were judged by Dr. Weiss, NIDA's Dr. Ruben Baler, and Dr. Walter Ling, a NIDA grantee at the University of California at Los Angeles, which hosted the fair.

This year, about 1,500 students from 63 countries participated in the Intel ISEF competition, coordinated by the Society for Science and the Public, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The nonprofit organization Society for Science and the Public partners with Intel - along with dozens of other corporate, academic, government and science-focused sponsors - to provide support and awards each year. Winners received cash awards provided by Friends of NIDA in a ceremony, with a $2,500 scholarship for the first-place honoree. NIDA has developed a special section on its website, which includes other resources on addiction science, to showcase the winning projects and to help science fair entrants understand the criteria for the awards: The NIDA Science Fair Award for Addiction Science.


Contact:
NIDA Press Office
301-443-6245
media@nida.nih.gov

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy and improve practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA home page at www.drugabuse.gov. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA's new DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or fax or email requests to 240-645-0227 or drugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA's media guide can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide, and its new easy-to-read website can be found at www.easyread.drugabuse.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

NIH. . .Turning Discovery Into Health®

This page was last updated May 2011

News Releases

Jul 2014

Jun 2014

May 2014

Apr 2014

Mar 2014

Feb 2014

Jan 2014

Dec 2013

Nov 2013

Oct 2013

Sep 2013

Aug 2013

Jul 2013

Jun 2013

May 2013

Apr 2013

Mar 2013

Feb 2013

Jan 2013

Dec 2012

Nov 2012

Oct 2012

Sep 2012

Aug 2012

Jul 2012

Jun 2012

May 2012

Apr 2012

Mar 2012

Feb 2012

Jan 2012

Dec 2011

Nov 2011

Oct 2011

Sep 2011

Aug 2011

Jul 2011

Jun 2011

May 2011

Apr 2011

Mar 2011

Jan 2011

Dec 2010

Nov 2010

Sep 2010

Aug 2010

Jul 2010

May 2010

Apr 2010

Mar 2010

Jan 2010