CNRA Emotions in Addiction Lab

The Emotions in Addiction Lab is part of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction, a multidisciplinary team of substance abuse researchers focused on developing evidence-based treatments for substance use disorders informed by behavioral neuroscience. The focus of the Emotions in Addiction Lab is on emotional and motivational functioning in substance use disorders.

Individuals often begin using drugs to control emotional and motivational states, e.g. moderate responses to negative events and enhance responses to positive events. However, in the later stages of addiction, emotional states and motivated behaviors are profoundly disrupted by drug use, as addictive processes significantly alter an individual’s emotions and behaviors. The Emotions in Addiction Lab explores the important interaction between drugs, emotion and motivation at three stages of use:

  1. Starting drug use – We identify individual differences in emotional and motivational functioning may predispose people to use drugs
  2. Early, casual drug use – We model the early effects of abused drugs on emotional and motivational functioning by administering drugs to healthy volunteers. This allows us to identify early effects that may promote continued use and eventual addiction
  3. Addiction and treatment – We examine how disruptions in emotional and motivational functioning relate to addiction treatment outcomes, and how to restore equilibrium to functions unbalanced by drug use

To accomplish these goals we use cutting edge measures of emotional and motivational systems, including behavioral paradigms directly translated from animal equivalents, psychophysiology (measurements of physical responses that can indicate an emotional state), measures of immune functioning, and fMRI brain imaging.

Currently, our lab is working on the following studies:

  1. Targeting Anhedonia in Cocaine Use Disorder. “Anhedonia” is an inability to experience pleasure in everyday rewards or activities. Anhedonia may make it difficult for people to quit using cocaine. In this study, we target anhedonia in cocaine addiction using reward-based behavioral treatment and a medication that may improve responses to rewards.
  2. Exploring the Impact of Exercise on Reward Seeking and Motivational Pathways. The dopaminergic (DA) reward pathway plays an important role in healthy reward functioning, and initial evidence suggests that exercise increases dopamine activity in the DA pathway. This study will test whether one exercise session can improve reward functioning.



Wardle, Margaret CNRA

Margaret Wardle, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Contact Us

Phone: 713-486-2578
Fax: 713-486-2807

Behavioral and Biomedical Sciences Building (BBSB)
1941 East Road
Houston, TX 77054