Research News

VCBH $11.7 Million COBRE Grant Continues Unhealthy Lifestyle Patterns Research

September 21, 2018 by Jennifer Nachbur

An $11.7 million Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant renewal to the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health (VCBH) at the University of Vermont will support another five years of research on addressing and better understanding the unhealthy behaviors that negatively impact health and cost the U.S. healthcare system billions of dollars.

Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., Donaldson Professor of Psychiatry and Director, Vermont Center on Behavior and Health

An $11.7 million Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant renewal to the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health (VCBH) at the University of Vermont will support another five years of research on addressing and better understanding the unhealthy behaviors that negatively impact health and cost the U.S. healthcare system billions of dollars. The funding comes from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). 

Led by Stephen Higgins, Ph.D., director of the VCBH and professor of psychiatry and psychological science, the grant focuses on increasing understanding of the mechanisms underpinning vulnerability to unhealthy behavior patterns (i.e., lifestyle) and developing effective behavior-change interventions, with the end goal of establishing a productive, standalone center of research excellence in biomedical research. The VCBH has already made considerable progress in this area during its first five years. Higgins and the UVM COBRE faculty and collaborators have published an impressive 185 peer-reviewed publications in the area of behavior and health in the past five years, garnered nearly $60 million in additional external grant funding, and have established a successful early-career faculty mentoring program.

Professor of Medicine Philip Ades, M.D., is associate director of the COBRE. Associate Professors of Psychiatry Sarah Heil, Ph.D., and Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry Hugh Garavan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Diann Gaalema, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry Richard Rawson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Surgery Brian Sprague, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Alexandra Potter, Ph.D., play substantial roles as core leaders, mentors, and investigators in the center. Administrative team members providing support include Diana Cain, Marissa Wells, and Susan Enos.

“This is a UVM team effort involving many highly dedicated and talented senior, mid-career, and early-career investigators from academic departments and colleges throughout UVM, center administrators, and tremendous support from President Tom Sullivan, Vice President for Research Richard Galbraith, Provost David Rosowsky, Larner College of Medicine Dean Frederick Morin, Senior Associate Dean for Research Gordon Jensen, and Department of Psychiatry Chair Robert Pierattini,” says Higgins.

The UVM COBRE team will continue to partner with collaborators at Brown University, University of Kentucky School of Medicine, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Laureate Institute for Brain Research, and Oviedo University (Spain), among others, in addition to UVM internal advisors from across the university.

In Phase II of the COBRE, five new research projects led by junior faculty members will investigate such issues as: breast cancer incidence in high-risk women, led by Thomas Ahern, Ph.D., assistant professor of surgery; improving linkage to care after ocular telehealth screening in diabetic adults, led by Assistant Professor of Surgery Christopher Brady, M.D.; smartphone-based financial incentives to promote smoking cessation in pregnant women, led by Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Allison Kurti, Ph.D.; the effects of stress on capillary-to-arteriole communication in the brain, led by Assistant Professor of Pharmacology Thomas Longden, Ph.D.; and improving smoking cessation in socioeconomically disadvantaged young adults, led by Andrea Villanti, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of psychiatry.

Visit the VCBH website.