The Vermont Center on Behavior and Health (VCBH), led by Director Stephen T. Higgins, PhD, is an interdisciplinary research center committed to investigating relationships between personal behavior patterns (i.e., lifestyle) and risk for chronic disease and premature death. Our work has historically focused on health disparities for the most vulnerable populations, particularly among the socioeconomically disadvantaged where these risk factors are overrepresented.


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Located in Burlington, VT at the University of Vermont, Larner College of Medicine, VCBH researchers have a specific focus on understanding mechanisms underpinning risk and developing effective interventions and policies to promote healthy behavior. A common thread across VCBH research projects is the application of knowledge from the disciplines of behavioral economics and behavioral pharmacology to increase understanding of vulnerability to unhealthy behavior and the use of incentives and other behavioral and pharmacological interventions to support healthy behavior change interventions and policies.

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Our Lecture Series will pick back up in September with guest speaker Dr. Sherrie Khadanga.

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Psychiatry Researchers Receive Phase 2 HBCD Grant

January 31, 2022 by Nicole Twohig

Vermont Center on Behavior and Health investigators were notified that they received a $5.5 million, five-year grant to participate in the Phase II portion of the HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study,

In November 2021, Vermont Center on Behavior and Health investigators were notified that they received a $5.5 million, five-year grant to participate in the Phase II portion of the HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study, an initiative focused on gathering data on brain development from birth through early childhood.

Leading the UVM team are Alexandra Potter, Ph.D., and Hugh Garavan, Ph.D. Both professors are involved in the Consortium Administrative Core for the study and are co-lead investigators on the ABCD study. Sarah Heil, PhD, also a co-investigator, will lead the recruitment efforts for the UVM site of HBCD, with particular focus on substance using pregnant women. She will provide direct supervision to the recruitment specialist, and will collaborate on scientific products

The HBCD study complements the landmark Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study launched in 2015 – a longitudinal study tracking nearly 12,000 youth from age 10 through to young adulthood using advanced neuroimaging to observe brain development and has many of the same data collection elements as HBCD.

The goal of the HBCD study is to provide a template of normative neurodevelopment and help identify factors that influence development, eventually leading to greater risk or resilience for numerous mental health and neurocognitive outcomes. Sites will enroll 7,500 pregnant women in their second trimester and will follow them and their children for up to 10 years, collecting data on pregnancy and fetal development; infant and early childhood structural and functional brain imaging; brain size and physical characteristics; medical history; family history; biological specimens; and social, emotional and cognitive development.

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