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Olga Inozemtseva, Ph.D.

Neuropsychology of addictions

Laboratory Director: Dr. Olga Inozemtseva
e-mail: oinozem@yahoo.com

Dependencies, both behavioral and substance-related, affect not only people’s health but also their familial, social and work stability, and have broader repercussions for the quality of life… both their own and that of their families. At the societal level, addictions are underlying factors in problems of violence, public safety, and economic wellbeing, among others. Thus, studying the cognitive-behavioral mechanisms of addictive behaviors and the consequences of the use of substances of abuse on people’s conduct and cognitive functioning are important not only as significant contributions to knowledge, but also in terms of improving the efficiency of prevention and rehabilitation programs designed for these populations.
In this regard, the Neuropsychology of Addictions Laboratory is devoted to research on diverse neuropsychological aspects of people with dependencies. One line of research works toward characterizing the cognitive and executive functioning of individuals addicted to psychostimulants during different periods of abstinence. This area of study seeks to establish whether distinct substances of abuse differentially affect the cognitive functioning of dependent patients. Our Laboratory also probes reports that inhibitory control is one of the processes of executive functioning that is related to the loss of control over substance consumption. Therefore, a second area of research focuses on determining the role of deficits of inhibitory control in addictive behaviors, especially whether alterations in this process become manifest as a consequence of the toxic effect of such substances, or have a pre-morbid character, and so can serve as risk factors that indicate the potential for acquiring an addiction. In an effort to clarify this key question, our Laboratory has undertaken work on behavioral addictions, specifically compulsive gambling (ludopathy), which now constitutes a third line of research. Our interest in working with people who suffer from this problem emerged, on the one hand, through a desire to contribute to knowledge of the mechanisms of addictive behavior, since individuals with this type of addiction display dependency conduct and loss of control despite the fact that they do not consume a substance of abuse, while on the other we strive to improve our understanding of this disorder itself, because even though behavioral addictions of this kind do not involve substance abuse, they produce consequences that are just as devastating as those associated with substance addiction.
The principle tools utilized in our Laboratory to achieve our objectives include a series of clinical and experimental neuropsychological tests, most of which require computerized instruments. In addition, we are working with eye-tracking equipment in studies that evaluate oculomotor inhibitory control. Evaluations of patients suffering from substance dependency are conducted in various rehabilitation centers with which we have mutual agreements and commitments.