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Mindfulness-Based Intervention and Transcranial Direct Current Brain Stimulation to Reduce Heavy Drinking

Dr. Witkiewitz

Project Principal Investigator/s:
Katie Witkiewitz

Funding Agency:
NIH-Hational Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and University of New Mexico Women in STEM Faculty Development Research Seed Project

Amount Awarded:
$409,122 (NIH) and $10,000 (UNM Women in STEM)

Period of Performance:
07/2016 - 06/2018

Goals and Aims of Study

Relapse to heavy drinking is a common outcome following treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD).  Continued development of innovative and efficacious interventions that reduce heavy drinking and specifically target risk factors for heavy drinking is thus clearly warranted.  One novel intervention that has considerable promise for reducing heavy drinking is mindfulness-based relapse prevention, a behavioral intervention that was designed to target experiences of craving and other risk factors for heavy drinking.  The goal of the proposed study is to examine whether combining mindfulness with a non-invasive form of brain stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), could improve treatment outcomes for individuals who want to reduce their drinking. The proposed study will examine the efficacy (Primary Aim) and psychological and neurophysiological mechanisms of treatment efficacy using behavioral measures and electroencephalography (EEG) (Secondary Aim).  In addition to addressing the question of whether adding active tDCS to mindfulness training enhances efficacy, it will further examine issues of neurophysiological and behavioral treatment mechanisms to better inform the design of a future large efficacy trial. 

The University of New Mexico Women in STEM Faculty Development research seed project will support the purchase of new state-of-the-art tDCS devices that will allow for a fully double-blinded trial of tDCS.  The Women in STEM award will also provide Dr. Witkiewitz with the opportunity to develop her program of research in using tDCS.

How this Research Will Benefit Society

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) impacts millions of Americans and is associated with significant behavioral, social, economic, medical, and neurobiological dysfunction, yet current behavioral treatments for AUD are only modestly effective. The proposed research will test the efficacy of a novel behavioral intervention, which combines brain stimulation with mindfulness-based relapse prevention, and is hypothesized to improve neural dysfunction and ultimately lead to large effect size reductions in heavy drinking among individuals with AUD. Given that mindfulness and brain stimulation are already available for “home use” there is great potential for the ultimate dissemination of the intervention on a very wide scale, which could have a significant impact on public health.