Research Updates in Behavioral Health
presented by Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D.
Dr. Nixon will present on some of the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute’s most current research findings related to behavioral healthcare.
Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D.
Professor & Co-Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine
Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Chief, Division of Addiction Research
Director, Neurocognitive Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, UF College of Medicine
Dr. Nixon’s research uses neurobehavioral methods and models to examine brain function. Her research often examines brain function under acute and chronic effects of alcohol and other drugs. Within this research, her team explores sex differences, effects of age, and the impact of ethnic/racial minority status. Because of the complex nature of substance abuse, Dr. Nixon’s work uses comprehensive behavioral assessments including neuropsychological testing, brain electrophysiology (electroencephalography and event-related potentials), and clinical research interviews. In addition to neurobehavioral research, Dr. Nixon has sustained a strong interest in community outreach and education. Her continued commitment to community outreach is reflected in her on-going work focusing on the cognitive, psychological and social concomitants of substance use.
Ph.D., University of Oklahoma, Department of Psychology; Postdoctoral Fellow (NIH-funded), Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Dr. Nixon is Co-PI, with Dr. Linda Cottler, PhD, MPH, of the University of Florida site of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD-USA), a NIH-funded landmark 21-site consortium study on brain functioning and behavioral, health, and psychological outcomes during adolescence. The UF site will follow 454 adolescents from the North Central Florida area initially over 5 years (ultimately over 10 years). This study employs multimodal brain imaging, cognitive and clinical assessments, bioassay measurements as well as substance use, environmental, and social functioning assessments. The broad nature of this research necessitates a multi-disciplinary effort of researchers and core services across the University of Florida, including the College of Medicine, College of Public Health and Health Professions, and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Additionally, Dr. Nixon’s team is conducting a NIAAA-funded R01 directed to clarifying the intersection of cognitive and emotional processing in men and women who are either seeking treatment for a substance use disorder or do not meet these criteria and might participate as community participants. A critical component of this project involves working with treatment and community groups throughout North Central Florida.
Another study in her laboratory includes analysis of a recently completed study funded by the NIAAA exploring the acute effects of alcohol in healthy older (55-70) and younger social drinkers. Although recruitment for this study has concluded, several key issues including the analysis of sex differences and driving performance under different conditions remain to be examined.
Her team is also in the early stages of a pilot study designed to assess the feasibility and efficacy of an FDA approved medication on cognition and abstinence in small group of men and women seeking treatment for alcohol use disorders. In the near future, we anticipate initiating this Phase 3 trial, examining the impact of a new compound on smoking cessation efforts in a sample of healthy current smokers.