Department of Psychiatry


The Neurobehavioral

Research Laboratory Clinic


The Neurobehavioral Research Laboratory and Clinic (NRLC) is primarily focused on examining impulsive behavior across distinct clinical populations.

The NRLC is a team of scientists developing empirically-based preventive interventions for substance use disorders.  This scope of this problem requires a holistic approach, which is why our team has incorporated a variety of expertise ranging from basic research to applied sciences to study process of cognition, biological function, and environment.  The purpose of studying these processes is to determine how an individual's unique personal characteristics act to either promote or protect them from development of substance use disorders and the frequent co-occurrence of suicidal behaviors.  Currently, our research with at-risk children focuses on how processes that we have identified as being clinically related to substance use disorders and suicidal behaviors develop across the critical period of adolescence.  In particular, we are seeking to determine:
  • how commonly occurring stressful life events in childhood, differences in cognitive processing (e.g., self-regulation), and certain biological susceptibilities (i.e., genetic and chemical markers) each relate to drug use behaviors and suicidality during adolescence.
  • how these same risk factors can be used to predict the development of subsequent drug use and suicidal behaviors during adolescence.
  • the different developmental pathways to drug use, abuse, and dependence during adolescence, and to identify to what extent cognitive, biological, and environmental risk factors determine these pathways of drug use and suicidality.
Our ultimate goal is to use empirically-derived knowledge to develop preventive and treatment interventions for specific groups of youths with drug-use behaviors.  We believe that the type and extent of interventions can be appropriately selected through the systematic consideration of risk factors during adolescent development. More specifically, what we learn clinically from conducting prevention trials in the community will provide information to guide our basic-science investigations.  In turn, evidence-based results from these prevention trials will then be used to guide testing and further refinement of increasingly more effective preventive and treatment interventions.  In summary, through scientific study of community-based interventions we will not only be able to impact the health and welfare of at-risk youth in the local community; we also will be able to develop more effective interventions that can be adopted nationally.

While the NRLC team collaborates with many other clinicians and researchers both within and outside our institution, the NRLC is comprised of five core faculty: (1) Dr. Donald Dougherty serves as the Director of the NRLC and has expertise in the assessment of behavior with an interest in how behavioral measures can yield knowledge regarding the underlying mechanisms responsible for impulsive behaviors following pharmacological manipulations.  He has developed and used laboratory measures as a means of assessing behavior and monitoring treatment response to clinical interventions; (2) Dr. Ashley Acheson is a behavioral neuroscientist interested in studying the effects of drugs on neural substrates of impulsive behavior as ascertained via imaging techniques; (3) Dr. Nathalie Hill-Kapturczak is a biochemist with interests in the chemical underpinnings of behavior, particularly as relates to substance use and abuse; (4) Dr. Charles Mathias is an applied psychologist with expertise in psychophysiological assessment to identify potential mechanisms related to impulsive and aggressive behaviors; and (5) Dr. Stacy Ryan is a clinical psychologist interested in implementation of adolescent substance use treatment programs.

More information can be seen at
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