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Tech psychology professor Warren Bickel will work to help people quit smoking.
Saturday, July 27, 2013
An addiction expert at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute has received a $3.2 million grant in his quest to help people quit smoking.
The grant, awarded to Tech psychology professor Warren Bickel, is one of the largest in the short history of the Roanoke-based institute, which opened in 2010.
The funds from the National Institute of Drug Abuse will be spread out over five years to support Bickel’s work.
Hundreds of smokers will be recruited for the research, which will focus on how the brain of a nicotine-addicted person can support poor decision making — such as discounting the long-term health benefits of not smoking for the instant gratification of a cigarette.
Bickel’s hypothesis is that smokers who discount the future the most are also the most addicted, caught up in their immediate circumstances to the point that nicotine craving has an exaggerated effect on their brains.
If that hypothesis is confirmed, the research will turn toward helping those smokers build resistance through behavioral exercises.
“We want to bring the power of science into people’s daily struggles to stop smoking,” Bickel said in a news release from the institute.
With the funding, the research institute has accumulated about $48 million in grants during the three years it has operated from the Riverside Center medical complex in Roanoke.
Other biomedical research at the institute is aimed at helping people with cancer, depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, cerebral palsy and other ailments.
Nationwide, less than 10 percent of proposals such as Bickel’s receive funding in the highly competitive pursuit for limited research dollars.
“We’re very fortunate to have an addiction expert of Dr. Bickel’s caliber,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the institute.
“His research not only addresses a major health issue in southwest Virginia, but it also helps us better understand the human brain. It will contribute to improving health and reducing medical costs throughout the country and around the world.”
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