RIA spring seminars explore neuroscience, genetics, obesity, college substance abuse

By Cathy Wilde

Release Date: January 13, 2016

Leonard Epstein

Leonard Epstein

Maria Testa

Maria Testa

Amelia Arria

Amelia Arria

Francesca Filbey

Francesca Filbey

Tamara Phillips

Tamara Phillips

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Spring Seminar Series at the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions will explore topics including obesity, the effects of substance use on college sexual assault and academic performance, and the neuroscience of marijuana and methamphetamines.  

RIA seminars take place at 10 a.m. in room 132 at the Research Institute on Addictions, 1021 Main St. in Buffalo on UB’s Downtown Campus. They are free and open to the public.

The Spring Seminar Series kicks off Feb. 5 with a talk by Leonard H. Epstein, PhD, titled “Lead Foot and Worn Brakes: A Reinforcement Pathology Approach to Obesity.” Epstein is a SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Community Health and Health Behavior and Social and Preventive Medicine, and chief of the Division of Behavioral Medicine at UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Epstein is an internationally recognized authority in the fields of childhood obesity, physical activity, weight control and family intervention, and his research interests focus on health behavior change and determinants of eating, physical activity and drug self-administration.

On Feb. 19, Maria Testa, PhD, will present on “College Men’s Alcohol Consumption and Sexual Aggression Perpetration: Proximal and Distal Effects.”  Testa is a senior research scientist at RIA and research associate professor in UB’s Department of Psychology. She has received multiple, nationally funded research grants to explore topics including sexual assault, college drinking, intimate partner violence and women’s sexual victimization.

The seminars continue on March 4 with a presentation by Amelia M. Arria, PhD, on “Connections between Substance Use and Academic Performance: Implications for Prevention and Intervention.” Arria is an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health and director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland. Her research has focused on the familial, social and individual risk and resiliency factors associated with mental health and substance abuse among adolescents and young adults. Her longitudinal College Life Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, focuses on the mental health needs, health-risk behaviors and consequences of substance use for college students through their young adult years.

The fourth seminar in the series takes place on April 29, with a talk by Francesca Filbey, PhD, on “Marijuana and the Brain: Neuroimaging Studies in Long Term, Heavy Users.” Filbey is an associate professor and director of cognitive neuroscience research of addictive disorders at the Center for Brain Health, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas, and an adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Filbey’s research seeks to advance the understanding of biobehavioral mechanisms of addictive disorders toward the improvement of early detection and intervention. Her lab combines genomic and neuroimaging approaches to determine neurobiological markers for addiction.

The Spring Seminar Series closes on May 20 with a talk by Tamara J. Phillips, PhD, on “Evidence for the Trace Amine-Associated Receptor 1 Gene (Taar1) as a Quantitative Trait Gene for Voluntary Methamphetamine Consumption.” Phillips is a professor and vice chair of behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University and a senior research career scientist at Portland VA Medical Center. Her primary research area is the behavioral and quantitative genetics of alcohol and drug addiction, using molecular and pharmacological methods to identify and study mechanisms that underlie genetic risk for addiction.

For more information about RIA’s Spring Seminar Series, contact Rebecca Houston, PhD, at 716-887-2579 or visit http://www.buffalo.edu/ria/news_events/seminars.html.

RIA is a research center of the University at Buffalo and a national leader in the study of alcohol and substance abuse issues. RIA’s research programs, most of which have multiple-year funding, are supported by federal, state and private foundation grants. Located on UB’s Downtown Campus, RIA is a member of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and a key contributor to UB’s reputation for research excellence. To learn more, visit buffalo.edu/ria

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