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Bridging Neurobiological, Behavioral, and Prevention Sciences Workshop

July 17-18, 2001

Bill Bukoski
Minda Lynch


Successful efforts to prevent complex health and mental health problems of today’s society often require an interdisciplinary research approach that integrates scientific knowledge and methods from a broad array of basic and applied research disciplines to include neurobiological, behavioral, and prevention sciences.

The goals of this interactive research-training workshop were to bring together senior investigators from multiple disciples and early career scientists to discuss the importance of interdisciplinary research as the next generation of prevention science, to explore research training and mentoring opportunities supported by NIDA, and to advance the future development of drug abuse research grant applications focused upon bridging neurobiological, behavioral, and prevention sciences.

Research Training Activities

The planning of the workshop was based upon two seminal reports recently released on interdisciplinary research, one by the Institute of Medicine titled “Bridging Disciplines in the Brain, Behavioral, and Clinical Sciences,” and a second by the National Research Council and NIH’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, titled “New Horizons in Health: An Integrative Approach.” These reports attest to the importance of advancing interdisciplinary research at the National Institutes of Health and of implementing research training opportunities at the federal and academic levels that would help create a new generation of research scientists fully prepared to address the complex research issues encountered when conducting randomized controlled trials of drug abuse prevention interventions targeted to populations at risk of drug abuse and addiction.

The workshop included five interactive training activities. First, a panel of senior investigators presented research findings emerging from their interdisciplinary studies and described the implications of that research to advance prevention science. Dr. Diana Fishbein (Research Triangle Institute) presented on the topic: “Why and How can Neuroscience Inform Prevention Science: Conceptual, Empirical, and Methodological Issues.” Dr. Mark Greenberg, Penn State University discussed “How Neurobiological Functioning Moderates Prevention Intervention Impact.” The topic presented by Dr. Nancy Grant Harrington, University of Kentucky was “Using Biology to Guide the Design of Anti-drug Messages.” Dr. Steve Suomi, National Institute on Child Health and Human Development discussed “How Gene-Environment Interactions Shape Biobehavioral Development in Rhesus Monkeys: Implications for Prevention Science.” A question and answer session followed the presentations.

Next, a panel of senior scientists and early career researchers discussed research training opportunities and current barriers in academia that hinder individuals from obtaining from their degree granting programs a thorough grounding in interdisciplinary research. Suggestions for improving the situation were presented and discussed by the panelists and the audience through an interactive question and answer session.

The third session showcased research training and research funding opportunities at NIDA. Minda Lynch, Ph.D., Acting Chief, Behavioral Sciences Research Branch, Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, NIDA, led the research training activity.

The fourth research-training event was a thematic poster session that was designed to promote active interchange between early career basic and prevention scientists participating in the workshop. Five poster themes were addressed to include: Alternative Reinforcers and Alternative Prevention Activities; Stress; Parenting and Parent-Child Interactions; Genetics; and Drug Sensitization. For each theme, two early career scientists presented research posters, one poster addressed the topic from the perspective of basic research and the second poster presented research findings from a prevention intervention perspective. This session fostered a face-to-face science-centered discussion between senior scientists, early career scientists, and other participants attending the workshop.

The final session consisted of eight Topic Round Tables where early career and senior scientists could have a more direct and intensive discussion and dialogue focused on a specific area of interdisciplinary research. In addition, NIDA research staff with expertise in specific areas also participated as discussants at each topic table. The topics included: Alternative Reinforcers and Alternative Environments; Stress; Parenting and Parent-Child Interactions; Genetics; Drug Sensitization; Methodology; Gender Issues; and Cognition/Social Cognition.

Expected Outcomes

As a result of the workshop an informal network of early career prevention scientists who share a common interest in interdisciplinary drug abuse prevention research was developed. Based upon the discussion between early career and senior research scientists shared at the meeting, it is clear that the seed of future interdisciplinary drug abuse prevention applications to be submitted to NIDA was planted and nurtured as a result of the meeting. In addition, a number of barriers to interdisciplinary research training related to drug abuse prevention were identified by the research community and by NIDA staff participating in the meeting. It is expected that several of these barriers will be addressed by forthcoming program and research grant development activities advanced by NIDA staff over the coming year. Finally, the workshop clearly demonstrated to the research community, NIDA’s leadership and readiness to support interdisciplinary research that bridges neurobiological, behavioral, and prevention sciences.

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