Training Grant

T32 Training Program in Genetic and Neurobehavioral Mechanisms of Addiction

We are seeking pre- and post-doctoral trainees. Please find our current postdoctoral trainee announcement and the predoctoral announcement.

The Department of Psychology administers a training program funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. The focus is to train predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees at the intersection of clinical psychology, clinical neuroscience, and behavioral genetics to understand the causes and consequences of substance use and addiction. There is a particular focus on providing trainees with the skills to analyze data from large-scale genetic and neuroimaging studies (e.g., UK Biobank; HCP; ABCD, etc). To learn more, please contact the program directors, Drs. Monica Luciana and Scott Vrieze.

Training Program

The training program includes predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees.

Predoctoral trainees are all graduate students in the Department of Psychology, conducting research in accordance with the mission of the program. A description of the training program, eligibility criteria, and information about the award is available in this brief document. Trainees receive an award that includes a 12-month stipend, tuition coverage, and additional funds for travel and research.

Postdoctoral trainees may have any of our faculty mentors as their primary advisor. A description of the training program, eligibility criteria, and information about the award is available in this document. Postdoctoral trainees receive an award that includes a 12-month stipend, some additional support to take courses as needed, and funds for travel and research.

The initial award will be for a one-year period. Pending satisfactory progress and availability of funds, the second year of support may be granted.

Faculty Mentors

Faculty mentors comprising the training program are highly multidisciplinary and collaborative, spanning seven departments across the University. They lead both large-scale collaborative efforts as well as specifically tailored research studies within their own laboratory and use cutting-edge technologies to advance our understanding of the connections between biology and behavior. 

Trainees have the opportunity to work with mentors who are intimately involved in the following efforts and institutions, to name only a few:

  1. The Adolescent Brain Cognition Development Study (ABCD), a 12-year longitudinal national study of associations between substance use/dependence and adolescent brain development in 11,875 children. 
  2. The Animal Models of Addictive Behaviors Consortium, whose members seek to identify gene variants, chromosomal regions, and epigenetic modifications associated with drug addiction using animal models.
  3. Our faculty are at the forefront of methodological developments in neuroimaging (e.g., ultrahigh magnetic fields at 7 Tesla and above) within the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR)
  4. The GWAS & Sequencing Consortium of Alcohol and Nicotine Use, a genetic association meta-analysis of smoking and alcohol use in 3.4 million individuals.
  5. The Healthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD), a longitudinal national study of early brain and child development in ~7,500 children assessed from the prenatal period through the first 10 years of life. 
  6. The Human Connectome Project (HCP), currently expanded to include longitudinal assessments of infants, children, and elderly individuals, is another major national initiative where Minnesota has a leadership role. 
  7. The Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research (MCTFR), which has decades of longitudinal psychological, psychophysiological, and neuroimaging data from 2,500 nuclear families with twins and adoptees.
  8. The Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine Initiative, which has generated deep whole-genome sequences in 150,000 individuals, as well as troves of epigenetic and metabolomics data.

Available Mentors

Frank Albert, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development. The overarching goal of Dr. Albert’s research is to understand how genetic variation influences complex traits and gene expression, in humans, rats, and yeast by combining experimental genomics with computational approaches.

Saonli Basu, PhD, is a Professor in the Division of Biostatistics. She develops statistical theory and computational methods in the genetics of complex traits, focusing on efficient methods that can scale to large samples of hundreds of thousands or millions of individuals. Dr. Basu has additional expertise in statistical theory and data analysis of highly multivariate phenotypes, such as that available through neuroimaging.

Juan Del Toro, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Del Toro is a developmental psychologist and studies how ethnic/racial discrimination from particular perpetrators (i.e., peers, educators, and law enforcement) contributes to mental health symptomatology, including internalizing and externalizing symptoms. To answer his research questions, Dr. Del Toro takes a multi-method approach integrating social survey data, ecological momentary assessments, biomarkers, epigenetics, and classical twin designs. In doing so, Dr. Del Toro works with diverse populations across the life course from late childhood to adulthood.

Lynn Eberly, PhD, is a Professor in the Division of Biostatistics. Dr. Eberly focuses on methods and applications for correlated data across a wide variety of statistical contexts, with a particular focus on multi-modal magnetic resonance imaging. 

Hamed Ekhtiari, MD, PhD, is a Medical Resident within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Ekhtiari's lab is focused on reshaping the future of addiction treatment using brain imaging in combination with non-invasive brain stimulation technologies and cognitive training. Dr. Ekhtiari is director of the international network of tES/TMS trials for addiction medicine (INTAM). INTAM with over 50 lab members promotes international collaborations to increase research quality and implementation of non-invasive brain stimulation technologies in addiction medicine.

Damien Fair, PA-C, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Institute of Child Development. His work focuses on advancing the understanding of brain development in health and disease to: understand basic principles of brain functioning across development (i.e. figure out how the brain works), learn about how neuropsychiatric and other brain-based disorders develop and progress over time, contribute to prevention and treatment of brain-based disorders, engage unrepresented communities in all aspects of academic medicine and research.

Nicola Grissom, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology. Her laboratory is dedicated to understanding sex differences in motivated behavior, executive function, learning, decision making, and attention in genetically-informed mouse models of psychological disorder, including addiction.

Dorothy Hatsukami, PhD, is a Professor of Psychiatry and the Forster Family Chair in Cancer Prevention. Dr. Hatsukami has had a distinguished internationally recognized career in the characterization of tobacco addiction, including its genetic basis, and examining various pharmacological treatment methods for adult smokers, adolescents, and smokeless tobacco users.

Nathaniel Helwig, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Statistics (joint appointment). Dr. Helwig's research focuses on the development of nonparametric and multivariate methods for studying complex biological and psychological processes using high dimensional data including neuroimaging.

William Iacono, PhD, is a Regents’ Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Iacono is an internationally recognized leader in the psychophysiological and behavior genetic study of psychopathology, with a focus on the development of drug use and addiction.

Bonnie Klimes-Dougan,PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Psychology whose program of research takes a developmental psychopathology perspective drawing on the fields of clinical, developmental, and biological science. The aim is to understand brain and body conditions of stress/threat and regulatory processes relevant to internalizing psychopathology, including topics of relevance to addiction such as distress, depression, and despair (including self-harm).

Robert Krueger, PhD, is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Krueger’s research spans behavior genetics, addiction, personality, psychopathology, personality disorders, and quantitative methods. He is an internationally recognized leader in the assessment and conceptualization of psychiatric nosology and comorbidity including addiction.

Anna Lee, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology. Dr. Lee’s research focuses on the neurobiology of alcohol and nicotine addiction. Her work investigates causal relationships between gene expression, cellular function and drug addiction behavior, interrogating the neurobiology of candidate genes, neural circuitry involved in drug-related behaviors, and the evaluation of treatment strategies at the pre-clinical level.

Kelvin Lim, MD, is the Drs. T.J. and Ella M. Arneson Land-Grant Chair in Human Behavior, and Professor and Vice-Chair for Research in the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Lim’s research involves brain-based studies of psychiatric disorders including cocaine and other forms of addiction. His current research includes neuroimaging of anatomical abnormalities in drug abuse and neuromodulation to target abnormal neural circuitries.

Shmuel Lissek, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology. His research is focused on psychophysiological and neurobiological antecedents of conditioned avoidance and risky decision making. He applies this perspective to understand comorbidities and etiological relationships among internalizing psychopathology (e.g., anxiety) and other forms of psychopathology including addiction.

Monica Luciana, PhD, is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Luciana's research examines brain/behavior relationships in adults and children and the neuroplasticity of neural circuitry during development, as a function of substance use, and in the context of psychopathology. Specifically, she is interested in the neurobiology of executive functions that are mediated by the brain's prefrontal cortex, including working memory, planning, and emotional control as well as reward processing and the neural circuits that promote incentive motivation. Her research program has utilized several approaches to examine these processes: (a) Pharmacological studies of healthy adults; (b) Studies of clinical and neurological populations; (c) Developmental neuroimaging studies of adolescents; and (d) Studies of young adults who use recreational drugs; alcohol and marijuana are of particular interest. Dr. Luciana leads Minnesota's contribution to the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Consortium project.

Angus MacDonald, PhD, is a McKnight Distinguished Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology. His laboratory explores cognitive and affective processes in healthy populations, in individuals with vulnerabilities to substance misuse, and in severe psychopathology. Methodologies include magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI, DTI), behavioral genetics (twin/family studies), clinical assessment, and cognitive/ social experimental testing, and neuromodulation.

Matt McGue, PhD, is a Regents’ Professor in the Department of Psychology. He is an internationally recognized expert in the behavioral genetics of addiction. His research interests are broad, including the development of substance use disorders from adolescence to adulthood, and the genetic contributions to normative aging processes and mortality.

Chad Myers, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Dr. Myers develops computational methods to integrate and analyze large-scale genomic data, predict gene function, and/or infer biological networks. He develops and applies these methods to humans and model organisms, translating across species to understand complex disorders including mental illness.

Wei Pan, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Biostatistics. Dr. Pan’s research interests are in statistical genetics and genomics, statistical learning and data mining, correlated data analysis, and survival analysis. His recent work covers an analysis of GWAS data and next-generation sequencing data, in particular, testing for complex traits-common or rare variant associations. He has expanded his research into the analysis of neuroimaging data, including genetic association analysis of multiple neuroimaging phenotypes, and estimation and inference of brain functional connectivity.

Brendon Tervo-Clemmens, PhD, is an Assistant Professor for the Department of Psychiatry & Brain Sciences. Dr. Tervo-Clemmens aims to understand the emergence of mental health and substance use disorders during adolescence and uses techniques from cognitive neuroscience, computational methods, and developmental psychopathology research. He is also engaged in methodological work aiming to evaluate and improve the reproducibility and ultimately, clinical utility, of large-scale fMRI and behavioral assessment research in neurodevelopmental studies.

Kamil Ugurbil, PhD, is a McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair Professorship in Radiology, Neurosciences, and Medicine and is the Director of the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) at the University of Minnesota. His research interests include mechanisms underlying functional mapping signals in fMRI, development of biological MR imaging and spectroscopy methods at ultrahigh magnetic fields for biomedical research in the human body, and the development of high-frequency RF instrumentation for ultrahigh field MR imaging in humans.

Scott Vrieze, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Vrieze is a clinical psychologist and behavioral geneticist. His work encompasses two broad inter-related areas. He contributes to multiple international genetic association studies of complex behavioral disorders and traits, discovering and characterizing the genetic and environmental etiology of these phenomena. He also conducts longitudinal twin studies on the causes and consequences of addiction and psychopathology. Please see his lab website for more information.

Sylia Wilson, PhD, is a McKnight Land-Grant Assistant Professor in the Institute of Child Development. Dr. Wilson's research examines the developmental etiology of psychopathology—the underlying processes that lead to the development of internalizing and externalizing problems. Her research integrates developmental, clinical, and neuroscience methods, and takes a lifetime developmental perspective that includes the study of infants, children, adolescents, and adults. She uses study designs and populations that are causally and genetically informative, including longitudinal, high-risk family, and twin designs, and takes a multimodal approach that includes behavioral, observational, neurocognitive, psychophysiological, and magnetic resonance imaging methods.

Essa Yacoub, PhD, is a Professor in the Departments of Radiology and the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research. Dr. Yacoub is a leading expert in the development of magnetic resonance imaging methodology, including engineering solutions to challenges in high field strength imaging (e.g., 7T). He applies his methods to phenotypes including psychopathology and related behavioral traits and has received awards for distinguished contributions to radiology.

Arslan Zaidi, PhD, is an Assistant Professor for the Institute for Health Informatics. Dr. Zaidi received his PhD in Genetics, with a minor in Statistics, from Penn State with Mark Shriver in 2016. He was a postdoc with Kateryna Makova at Penn State (2016-2018) and then an NIH K99/R00 postdoc with Iain Mathieson at the University of Pennsylvania (2019-2022). Arslan is interested in using theoretical and computational approaches to study how evolutionary history shapes the genetic architecture of disease risk in humans. 

Anna Zilverstand, PhD, is an Assistant Professor for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Zilverstrand is a is a psychologist and neuroimaging expert, faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science and member of the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction. She leads an interdisciplinary team focused on investigating how individual differences contribute to human drug addiction. Her research group analyzes existing large-scale multimodal data sets, in addition to acquiring their own data by employing a variety of techniques such as interviewing, neurocognitive testing, questionnaires and multi-modal neuroimaging. Novel computational methods are employed for linking social, demographic, neurocognitive, personality and clinical measures to the neuroimaging data, to explore the existence of neurobiological subtypes within the addicted population. The goal of this research is to develop neuroscience-derived individualized treatment for individuals who are at risk for either escalation of drug use or relapse.