James MacKillop
Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences

My research investigates the nature and treatment of substance use disorders and related conditions. In particular, my work often applies behavioral economics and neuroeconomics to understand addictive behavior. Behavioral economics integrates psychology and economics to understand people’s preferences, choices, and consumption behavior. Neuroeconomics further integrates behavioral economics with cognitive neuroscience to understand the neural underpinnings of healthy and unhealthy consumption preferences. These perspectives are particularly well suited for understanding addictive disorders, which inherently comprise overvaluation and overconsumption of psychoactive drugs and other potent reinforcers.

My work is translational in the sense that it uses methodologies that are consilient across levels of analysis, from basic science to clinical applications, and explicitly seeks to ‘connect the dots’ between these domains. One major focus is on in vivo human behavior and the factors that affect the choices people make in a semi-naturalistic settings, such as a bar laboratory. At the basic end of the spectrum, my research seeks to dissect the behavioral phenomena using neuroimaging. At the applied end of the spectrum, my work exports insights from behavioral studies to improve treatment and public policy. Across these domains, my research investigates the role of genetic variation in behavioral, brain imaging, and clinical phenotypes. Beyond addiction, I have recently expanded my research focus to medical cannabis, investigating both its potential therapeutic benefits and associated risk profile.

Collectively, my research program seeks to leverage diverse perspectives and methods from multiple fields to generate significant and unique insights into addictive behavior and medical cannabis.
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