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.

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 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. 
  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 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.
  5. The GWAS & Sequencing Consortium of Alcohol and Nicotine Use, a genetic association meta-analysis of smoking and alcohol use in 3.4 million individuals.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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

Frank Albert, PhD, is an Assistant 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 an Associate 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.

Ran Blekhman, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development. Dr. Blekhman is a human genomicist who develops computational and functional genomics approaches with the goal of understanding how genomic variation and environmental factors influence host-microbiome interactions, and how these interactions affect susceptibility to disease with a focus on humans. These methods can be applied widely to complex traits and diseases in humans. 

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. 

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.

Jonathan Gewirtz, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Psychology. He is a behavioral neuroscientist focused on how affective states are associated with drug dependence and withdrawal in model systems using genetic mouse models and precise behavioral assays and measurements.

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 Assistant 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.

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 Assistant 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 Hathaway Distinguished Professor and 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.

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.