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Understanding the role of genes in smoking addiction, nicotine withdrawal

Thomas Gould hopes to better understand how genes influence nicotine-withdrawal symptoms in order to develop more effective smoking cessation programs.

Gould, the Jean Phillips Shibley Professor and head of the Department of Biobehavioral Health, recently received a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse to examine changes in gene expression during nicotine withdrawal by studying the impact nicotine has on mice.

Gould aims to determine what genes make someone more susceptible to behavioral changes and how genes involved in forming memory are altered during nicotine withdrawal. This could lead to personalized treatment based on genetic background.

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Faculty and students in BBH are involved in research across a great diversity of domains. Our unique strength stems from our integrative approach and having those with very diverse backgrounds in the same department – working together to advance understanding of how to improve health and well-being from childhood through adulthood and older age.

To learn more about specific research in our department, see a list of graduate faculty and their research interests, and a list of research laboratories associated with BBH.

As a group, we have particular strength in several specific research domains.

Stress and Health

Numerous BBH faculty examine the influences of psychological stress and stressful events on physical health and well-being, conducting research to understand associations, mechanisms, and prevention strategies. They employ diverse perspectives from psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), social and health psychology, behavioral science, neuroscience, and many other domains.


Addiction to legal and legal substances is viewed by many faculty as a critical heath problem that is best answered by an interdisciplinary and integrative approach. As such, various faculty in BBH are addressing addiction issues using approaches that include utilization of: genetics; learning and memory; prevention; ethics; gender differences; psychological stress theory; statistical modeling; health policy; and intervention / treatment.

Behavioral Health and Disease

Behavior is a critically important factor linking social and psychological processes with physical health. BBH faculty have enormous strength in the in-depth investigation of health behaviors, with particular expertise in sleep, diet, and drug use. Our faculty not only study the unique impact of behavior in biobehavioral health models but also manipulate health behavior and consider its utilization in prevention and intervention strategies.

Individual Differences and Health

Better understanding how individuals vary (both from other individuals and from themselves over time and in various contexts) is of critical importance in customizing prevention and intervention strategies. BBH faculty take a cutting-edge approach to understanding individual variability, in ways that take into account factors such as racial/ethnic diversity, sexual minority diversity, sex / gender differences, personality, age, genetics, neural and other biological processes, and the influences of time and social dynamics.

Public / Global Health

BBH hosts a University-wide Global Health minor program, which emphasizes global interconnectedness within current health problems affecting the worldwide population and how to think critically about how public health challenges might best be solved. A truly integrative approach is applied by numerous BBH faculty to thinking about ways to study and intervene on public health issues from an interdisciplinary approach that integrates biology, psychology, and behavior with a public/global health perspective.