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Francesca Filbey, PhD

Bert Moore Endowed Chair and Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Director, Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory of Addictive Disorders

Dr. Francesca Filbey is a world-renowned expert in the brain mechanisms of addictive disorders. The significance of her research is in advancing the understanding of brain mechanisms to identify targets for prevention and intervention. The potential societal impacts of this research is high given that addictive disorders cause an extensive burden in terms of morbidity, mortality, and public health costs, yet treatment strategies are only modestly effective.

Key Research and Publications

Dr. Filbey’s studies incorporate interdisciplinary approaches from the fields of cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging, genetics, computational modeling, psychology and psychiatry. Specifically, taking advantage of methodological advancements in neuroimaging and analytical techniques, she combines genomic and neuroimaging approaches to determine the mechanisms that underlie reward and motivation in substance using populations. These projects move beyond simple classifications of presence or absence of reward dysfunction by applying “deep phenotyping” and multivariate approaches that consist of continuous variables from cognitive assessments in addition to biological processes. Understanding these mechanisms will (1) advance our understanding of the dopaminergic mesocorticolimbic pathway, (2) elucidate the multidimensional processes involved in reward-seeking behavior, (3) inform prevention strategies by defining factors that put individuals at risk, and (4) facilitate effective intervention by unraveling neurobiological and cognitive targets of treatment strategies.

The Neuroscience of Addiction

This book addresses the growing need for accessible information on the science behind addiction. As the stigma surrounding addiction persists, new research focused on the impact of substance use on the brain is vital to public health.

Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Use on the Brain

This study investigates changes in brain volume using MRI, finding scans of marijuana users demonstrate decreased activation in the frontal lobe and increased activity in a brain region rich in cannabis receptors.

An abstract black and white line illustration.

fMRI Study of Neural Sensitization to Hedonic Stimuli in Long-Term, Daily Cannabis Users

This study expands upon prior work exploring brain sensitivity to cannabis cues between long-term users and nonusers.

Neurons in a blue background.

Weeding Through Marijuana's Effects on the Brain

Determining causality in research takes time, but recent research provides valuable insight into possible effects of marijuana use on brain structure and function.

White Brain Sculpture with Marijuana Leaf

Marijuana Craving in the Brain

Led by Dr. Filbey, this study is the first study to evidence that neurobiological mechanisms can reflect people's cravings for marijuana.

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Research Impact

The Filbey Lab focuses on combining neuroimaging and genetic techniques to characterize neural mechanisms associated with reward system dysfunction (e.g., addictive disorders).

Specifically, we are interested in how environmental factors (e.g., adolescent onset of use, early life stress) mediate the neural mechanisms that are associated with changes in the reward system and how genetic risk moderates these effects.

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