BUFFALO, N.Y.--What are the effects of gambling availability
among specific populations? How do you control that impulse to have
"just one more drink"? Can a spouse really help a loved one quit
The University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions has
been awarded three grants to study these specific areas of
addictive behaviors: the impact of alcohol and gambling
availability on the frequency of gambling among Native Americans;
impulse control and alcohol use; and partner influence on smoking
"We are thrilled that these highly innovative projects were
selected for support by the National Institutes of Health. In the
very competitive funding climate at NIH, these grant awards are a
testament to the outstanding work of these RIA researchers and
their collaborators," said RIA director Kenneth Leonard.
Senior research scientist Grace Barnes, PhD, principal
investigator on the grant "Ecological and Sociocultural Influences
on Native Americans Gambling and Alcohol Use," says the study will
examine the effects of gambling availability and socio-demographic
factors on the frequency of gambling and co-occurring alcohol abuse
among Native Americans in the U.S.
"This is an important complement to the ongoing national study
of gambling in the U.S. currently being conducted at RIA," says
The research team working with Dr. Barnes includes Dr. John
Welte and Dr. Marie Tidwell co-investigators in the ongoing U.S.
gambling study, as well as two experts in Native American research:
David Patterson-Silver Wolf (Adelv unegv Waya), PhD, of Washington
University in St. Louis, and Paul Spicer, PhD, of the University of
Barnes' grant is funded in the amount of $416,063 by the
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
The second grant, awarded to RIA research scientist, Rebecca
Houston, PhD, will study whether impulse control during alcohol
treatment affects the ability to stop drinking during and after
"The concept of impulse control is quite complicated," Houston
said. "As a starting point, we are trying to identify what parts of
impulse control are most important for change during alcoholism
The study will examine further whether new strategies for
modifying impulse control can be developed through or during
One of those new strategies will be Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
"HRV training is a technique developed by Paul Leher, PhD, and
others, which involves a simple series of breathing exercises to
increase HRV," said Houston.
"We believe that HRV, which is a physiological index of
self-regulation, is linked to impulse control. An increase in
HRV--through training--may result in an increase in impulse control
and, ultimately, better control over drinking."
Houston explains that because HRV breathing exercises can be
done anywhere and at any time, they may provide an easy, accessible
way for individuals to cope with in-the-moment impulses to
"If these strategies and exercises are practiced regularly, they
may contribute to long-term general health benefits, in additional
to improved alcohol treatment outcome," she said.
Houston's grant is funded by NIAAA in the amount of $73,400.
The third grant has been awarded by the National Institute on
Drug Addiction (NIDA) to RIA research scientist Jaye L. Derrick,
PhD, to study smoking cessation.
Titled "The Daily Experiences with Smoking Cessation," the study
will examine specific partner behaviors that are helpful and
harmful when a smoker is trying to quit.
"Previous research has shown that social support is important
for quitting smoking—smokers with a greater number of
supportive 'close others,' or with a partner who is particularly
supportive, are more likely to be able to quit," said Derrick.
"However, when researchers have tried to improve smokers'
ability to quit by increasing the social support they receive, they
have been unable to improve quit rates. In other words, increasing
social support does not appear to help."
This may be because researchers have previously tried to improve
behaviors that are not particularly helpful, and may even be
harmful, Derrick said.
"In this current study, we are trying to identify specific
partner behaviors that are helpful when a smoker is trying to quit.
We will have smokers and their partners complete short
questionnaires multiple times a day for three weeks while the
smoker makes a quit attempt," she said.
"Because we are studying these effects in near real time, we
will be able to identify behaviors that are important for quitting
(both helpful and harmful), even if the smoker and partner are
unaware of those behaviors.
"I am interested in this type of research because 'close others'
are incredibly important in helping us achieve our goals, or they
can undermine us--often without meaning to do so."
In future research, Derrick would like to study the effect of
close others on alcohol and other substance use, on diet and
exercise and on professional goals like academic achievement or
advancing in the workplace.
NIDA funding for Derrick's research is $441,684.