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The Role of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms in Substance Abuse: Pitt Psychiatry Awarded $14.8M Grant

August 11, 2020

This story was first published by the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry. To view the original article, click here

Colleen McClung, PhDDaniel Buysse, MDThe National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has awarded The University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry a Center of Excellence (P50) grant to fund the Center for Adolescent Reward, Rhythms and Sleep (CARRS). The CARRS Center will be led by Colleen McClung, PhD, (left) professor of Psychiatry and Clinical and Translational Science, and Daniel Buysse, MD, (right) professor of Sleep Medicine and professor of Psychiatry and Clinical and Translational Science.

Adolescence is a time of heightened reward sensitivity, increased impulsivity, risk taking, and increased risk for substance use. During this developmental period, hormone changes associated with puberty lead to a shift in circadian rhythms resulting in later preferred bed and wake times. In addition, social and environmental factors (early high school start times, increased social interactions with peers and the use of electronic devices at night) severely disrupt normal circadian rhythms and sleep in this population. The American Academy of Pediatrics has labeled insufficient sleep among adolescents as a public health epidemic that increases risk for substance abuse and other health problems.

The goal of CARRS is to understand the impact of adolescent sleep and circadian rhythm changes on reward circuitry and substance use-relevant outcomes by 1) determining the role of sleep and circadian rhythms in reward sensitivity and substance use in adolescence, 2) conducting translational research aimed at the development of interventions to reduce risk in at-risk individuals, 3) partnering with other Centers and the addiction research community to inform and complement ongoing research, and 4) providing training and education on sleep, circadian rhythms and substance use.

CARRS comprises five projects and three cores led by Pitt faculty from the Departments of Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Biostatistics. Learn more details about the projects and cores here

“The CARRS Center reflects several of the strengths that make the Pitt Department of Psychiatry unique: deep collaboration between investigators with different backgrounds, commitment to teaching and career development, and the ability to address important questions with novel methods,” said Dr. Buysse. “We really believe that the circadian and sleep perspective will change how we view the development of substance use disorders in adolescence."

Dr. McClung added, "We are so excited to begin this truly translational NIDA Center of Excellence. This is the first NIH Center focused on the role of sleep and circadian rhythms in substance use disorders. Our goal is to make CARRS the go-to resource for cutting-edge clinical and pre-clinical science, along with education and outreach that will help reduce substance use vulnerability in adolescents.” 

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