Also in this Issue
University Scientist Delivers APA's Congressional Testimony on Funding for DoD Behavioral Research
Jennifer Vendemia, PhD, a psychologist from the University of South Carolina, presented APA's testimony before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on May 17th. Vendemia's fMRI research focuses on modeling the neurocognitive processes of lying in order to formulate new deception detection techniques using measures of specific brain activity. She advocated for restoring cuts to behavioral research programs in the Department of Defense (DoD) laboratories and for increasing DoD's support of smaller, human-centered research programs related to counterintelligence and special operations.
Vendemia and Science Policy staffer Heather Kelly also met with Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) defense aide regarding research language in the FY06 DoD authorization bill and a possible visit from the Senator to psychological research labs at USC and nearby Ft. Jackson Army Base.
90th Meeting of the NIDA Advisory Council
On May 17th, Geoff Mumford, Director of Science Policy, attended the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Advisory Council. In addition to the Directors report, which included an appreciative mention of the March Friends of NIDA briefing that Geoff and Sara Robinson coordinated, the Council received reports from two APA Fellows. Jose Szapocznik delivered a Report of the Minority Health Disparities Work Group and Dorothy Hatsukami discussed the findings of the Bioethics Taskforce Report.
Geoff and Sara are also coordinating the next Friends of NIDA briefing scheduled for June 28th, which will focus on NIDA's methamphetamine research portfolio. Alongside Nora Volkow, APA member Richard Rawson will be presenting results from his MATRIX methamphetamine treatment studies at the UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Program.
Any SPIN readers who happen to be in town are cordially invited to attend.
109th Meeting of the NIAAA Advisory Council
On May 26th, Geoff Mumford, Director of Science Policy, attended the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Advisory Council. Director Li has initiated a series of portfolio reviews via an extramural advisory board (EAB) on which APA Fellow (and NIAAA Council member) Ken Sher serves. At this meeting the EAB presented two reviews: gene and environment interactions, and medications development.
The EAB concluded that there was still too much to learn about how genetics and environment [PDF 200K] separately contribute to the etiology of risk for alcohol use disorders to start large scale studies of their interactive contributions. However they did make a number of suggestions as to how NIAAA could adjust the existing portfolio to prepare for the future when such interactive studies might become appropriate. Dr. Raye Litten provided a summary of NIAAA's robust medication development program which was followed by the EAB portfolio review.
Council also received a report from Dr. Mark Willenbring on the development of the new Clinical Treatment Guidelines to be released later this summer. When NIAAA Director Li brought Dr. Willenbring on board as the new Director of the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research, they decided that revising the screening guide for clinicians should be a top priority. The resulting 2005 edition “Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinicians Guide” was designed to broaden the target audience and provide a simpler screening method.
The last edition of the guidelines, released in 2003, focused on primary care practitioners, but Dr. Willenbring, a psychiatrist by training, brought a “many hands make light work” philosophy with him to NIAAA and realized that expanding the clinician base to include mental health providers would be essential. Why? Because substance use disorders, primarily alcohol use disorders, are much more prevalent in patients with other mental health problems than in the general population, and many mental health patients do not regularly see primary care providers.
In addition to offering a step-by-step approach to providing brief interventions for non-dependent drinkers, the new guidelines also provide advice on how to deal with an alcohol dependent patient who refuses or fails to follow up with a referral, or who fails to respond to a behavioral treatment program. For the first time, medications for treating alcohol dependence are covered as well. Future products related to the new Clinicians Guide will include patient education materials and continuing education for professionals who take an on-line instruction planned for NIAAA’s website.
Geoff Mumford will be working with NIAAA and APA’s Professional Development Staff to disseminate the new guidelines. “The field of psychology has provided important leadership in researching and treating substance use disorders, and APA is in an ideal position to help us get these new guidelines into the hands of those who can really use them,” said Willenbring.
APA Co-sponsors Congressional Briefing Featuring Social Network Analysis
Building on the work of social psychologist Stanley Milgram, a diverse group of scientists are now utilizing social network analysis to improve outcomes in fields from national security to public health. Under the leadership of the Coalition to Protect Research, co-chaired by APA's Karen Studwell, APA joined the Consortium of Social Science Associations, the American Sociological Association and other scientific organizations to sponsor a congressional briefing entitled, Six Degrees of Separation: Using Social Network Research to Inform Public Health and National Security to educate congressional staff and policymakers about the need for this research. Featured speakers included: Brian Reed, Fellow, Center for Research on Military Organization at the Department of Sociology, University of Maryland College Park, Duncan Watts, PhD, Associate Professor of Sociology, Columbia University, Katherine Stovel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Washington. Each of the speakers represented a unique perspective on how social network analysis is informing policy decisions and the importance of continued federal support for this research, even in times of budget constraints.
Social network analysis has become particularly useful in the public health battle against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Dr. Stovell presented data from the Add Health Study, which was funded primarily by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and is helping to inform scientists what types of interventions might be most successful at breaking some of the chains involved in disease transmission.