The Behavioral and Cognitive Science Research Branch (BCSRB) supports research on the neurobiological and behavioral processes underlying addictive behaviors and the substrates or mechanisms involved in the behavioral effects produced by drugs of abuse. Translational research, for example the development of laboratory-based interventions –- pharmacological, environmental or behavioral -- which may ultimately be used for reducing or eliminating drug-taking behavior, is an area of interest.
Animal behavioral research is supported within the broad context of neurobiological, genetic, behavioral and cognitive factors in drug addiction. For example, behavioral variables and neurobiological mechanisms are important as antecedent processes in the vulnerability to start, escalate or relapse to drug abuse, as factors in the transition between these stages of abuse, and as consequences or adverse outcomes of abuse. Antecedent variables include individual differences that can be characterized behaviorally or neurobiologically (e.g., "sensation-seeking" or impulsive phenotypes, drug history including prenatal exposure, prior learning experiences, or developmental stage), environmental factors (e.g., drug-associated cues, stress, social interactions), genetic predispositions, cognitive processes involved in decision-making, risk-taking or selective attention, and motivational factors contributing to drug craving and cue or drug-induced relapse. Consequences include drug effects on learning and memory (especially emotional memory), perception, motor behavior, affect, and higher-order cognition (e.g., executive functions).