Neuropsychoimaging Research Pyramid

The organization of the Neuropsychoimaging of Addiction and Related Conditions (NARC) Research Program is represented by the pyramid above, with its foundation based in cognitive and behavioral measures. The complementary nature of the interrelationships between the various approaches to studying the behaving human brain is emphasized by the left-sided bi-directional arrow.

Level One

Level one encompasses a broad range of both computerized and paper-and-pencil measures of cognition (attention, memory, inhibitory control, decision-making), emotion and personality (anger, harm avoidance, negative emotionality), and behavioral tendencies (e.g., impulsivity, aggression). This broad foundation of tests, self-reports and measures is selected based on a-priori hypotheses about the underlying neural pathways involved in each of these domains. These tools are administered to all our subjects (e.g., drug addicted subjects, individuals at-risk for developing drug addiction, individuals with intermittent explosive disorder, healthy controls).

Level Two

Level two provides a platform to test common neuropsychological questions (see below). Here we develop and test new behavioral assays (e.g., drug fluency, drug-related choice, self-awareness, sensitivity to reward, risk and negative social interactions) to target specific neural networks (e.g., mesolimbic and mesocortical dopamine pathways) implicated in the core characteristics of drug addiction and other problem behaviors.

Level Three

Level three provides more direct, although still correlational, studies of the interplay between behavioral measures (e.g., inhibition of prepotent response tendencies, harm avoidance/fear, anger) and their putative neurobiological substrates (e.g., glucose metabolism in the orbitofrontal cortex).

Level Four

Level four provides experimental testing of a-priori hypotheses: a well-controlled study (including a control group and a control intervention/condition) is designed for the fMRI, PET, or ERP environment. The newly developed tasks are conducted during scanning in select individuals under select conditions.

Feed-forward and feedback loops between all four levels are essential for our comprehensive research, where we aim to advance the dynamic psychobiological study of human self-control and emotion regulation.


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Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
The Leon and Norma Hess Center for Science and Medicine
1470 Madison Ave, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10029