Dr Lee Hogarth
Associate Professor

Research

Research interests

Psychological theories of addiction fall into two camps. At one extreme, behavioural economic theories propose that addictive behaviour is intentionally undertaken in pursuit of fallacious gain. At the other extreme, implicit cognitive theories claim that drug-seeking is an automatically elicited behavioural routine. I study the integrative position offered by animal learning theory. On this view, drug-seeking is jointly controlled by a confluence of overlapping incrementally evolved learning processes. The basest learning processes are the Pavlovian conditioned reflex and the instrumental habit, which largely fall outside the individual’s intentions. However, the loftier forms of associative learning enable a propositional mental model of the predictive structure of the environment that guides goal-directed (intentional) selection of actions which are perceived to yield benefits or avoid costs given these predictions. This learning theory accords with clinical observations of drug-users. Drug-seeking is initially a choice undertaken for reward, but as drug use continues and co-morbid neuropsychiatric dysregulation grows, there is a transition of control over drug-seeking to the baser learning mechanisms, habit and Pavlovian reflex, reducing susceptibility to treatment and willed constraint.

My current research methods are human analogues of animal learning procedures, principally outcome-devaluation and Pavlovian to instrumental transfer, which are capable of isolating the differential governance of drug-seeking by these learning processes at various stages of the drug use career. These translational designs facilitate basic translational neuropsychopharmacology, but more pragmatically, allow cost-effective screening of candidate medications and behavioural interventions prior to clinical trials and thence frontline healthcare delivery.

Research projects

Exeter Translational Addiction Partnership (ETAP)
Exeter Translational Addiction Partnership seeks to bridge between research on substance dependence at University of Exeter and the therapeutic services delivered by the charity EDP Drug & Alcohol Services to the community and prison population.

Grants/Funding:

2013 Australian Research Council Grant: Advancing the science of willpower - investigating the mechanisms and processes of self-control. With Prof. Martin Hagger, Curtin University, Western Australia.

2012 ESRC Project Grant: Alcohol seeking and consumption - the role of reward valuation and attentional bias. With Dr. Abigail Rose, University of Liverpool.

2011 MRC Project Grant: Human drug dependence - cognitive predisposition and neural mechanisms.

2011 Alcohol Education and Research council grant: Neurophysiological correlates of Pavlovian to instrumental transfer in heavy drinkers. With Dr. Matt Field, University of Liverpool.

2007 BBSRC Project Grant: Attentional mediation of conditioned appetitive behaviour in humans. With Prof. Theodora Duka, University of Sussex, and Prof. Anthony Dickinson, University of Cambridge.

Research networks

Prof. Marcus Munafò and Dr. Angela Attwood at Bristol University: Pre-clinical pharmacological and behavioural approaches to attenuating human drug-seeking.

Prof. Matt Field and Dr. Abigail Rose at Liverpool University: Behavioural approaches to understand and treat alcohol dependence.

Dr. Brian Hitsman at Northwestern University and Dr. Robert Schnoll at University of Pennsylvania: Clinical evaluation of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy.

Prof. Martin Hagger at Curtin University, Western Australia: Protective effects of glucose against relapse induced by loss of cognitive control.

Dr. Mohammed Shoaib at Newcastle University: Animal models of drug dependence vulnerability.

Dr. Lynne Dawkins at University of East London: Transfer of dependence to e-cigarettes.

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