ARRA: Exploring the neurobiological response to anti-drug media messages with fMRA

Grants and Contracts Details


Drug abuse is a major public health concern and preventing the onset of problematic drug use has become a public health priority. Individuals classified as high sensation seekers are vulnerable to drug abuse and other risky behaviors that may result in poor health outcomes. Sensation seeking is a biologically based personality trait marked by a tendency to seek out and engage in novel and varied experiences to maintain an optimal level of arousal -- even if those experiences involve significant risk. Prevention programs that use televised public service announcements (PSAs) tailored for high sensation seekers have been effective at motivating behavior and attitude change by incorporating elements of novelty and high sensation value that attract and hold the attention of the viewer. Although progress has been made with targeted prevention campaigns, the cognitive and neurobiological mechanisms involved in effecting attitude change have not been addressed in depth. The present proposal uses state-of-the-art functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore the neurobiological systems involved in processing high sensation value PSAs by high and low sensation seeking individuals. This study will determine whether the neural substrates of processing PSAs overlap with the novelty detection I seeking dopamine reward system or whether the neural substrates overlap with brain systems involved in autonomic arousal and emotional regulation. Given that adolescence is a fairly vulnerable period for initial drug use, frequency of use, and development of abuse, the present study includes two age groups -- adolescents and young adults. fMRI is an ideal technique for exploring the neural systems involved in processing complex media messages like PSAs due to its non-invasive nature and capacity to reveal large scale activation patterns that reflect the participation of numerous brain systems, which are likely engaged with complex message processing. The characterization of different brain systems is accomplished with two commonly used tasks - novelty detection and emotional induction - in conjunction with the processing of PSAs that vary in sensation value (high and low) and thematic content (substance abuse versus safe sex). The PSAs used in this study were designed to reach high sensation seekers and have been shown previously to effect attitude change in adolescents. The PSAs are well characterized in terms of sensation value. The research proposed in this application will provide a foundation for generating hypotheses about potential neurobiological and cognitive mechanisms involved in effecting attitude or behavior change through anti-drug PSAs. Uniting community, behavioral, and neurobiological programs of research will provide a means of further identifying and increasing the effectiveness of prevention messages.
Effective start/end date6/20/097/31/10


  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: $364,680.00


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