Current Finn Lab Research

Broadly speaking, we are interested in understanding the self-regulatory problems associated with Alcohol Use Disorder and Substance use disorders, as well as externalizing psychopathology and behavioral disinhibition in general. Alcohol use disorder essentially reflects substantial problems regulating alcohol use such that one sees excessive binge-like drinking patterns, patterns of out of control drinking once one starts drinking (drinking far more than planned), drinking at times when it will interfere with responsibilities, put one at risk for interpersonal or legal consequences, and drinking so much that one experiences numerous health consequences.

Our primary focus has been on investigating the cognitive, motivational, and neural processes associated with impulsive and/or risky decision making in those with alcohol and other substance use disorder and in those with high levels of externalizing psychopathology. High levels of impulsivity and risk taking are hallmarks of substance use disorders and externalizing psychopathology.  We have found that lower levels of executive working memory capacity (attention control), intelligence, and general executive cognitive ability are associated impulsive/risky decision making and alcohol / substance use problems and general externalizing behavior problems. We also find that social contexts that vary in party incentives and disincentives are strong predictors of decisions about drinking and that those with problems with alcohol or behavioral problems in general respond somewhat differently to contextualized incentives and disincentives to drink.

Our studies of the neural processes associated with decision making and emotion regulation implicate various brain structures associated with executive function (i.e., frontal areas, anterior cingulate cortex), emotion regulation (e.g., the amygdala), and perception (visual cortex) are implicated in poor decision making and emotion regulation problems in these populations.

Our research also shows that if you compromise attention control (executive working memory) this leads to increased impulsive/risky decisions. Current studies are underway that examine whether we can “train” subjects to increase their capacity to control their attention, possibly leading to improved self-control of behavior and emotional responses and less propensity to engage in risky behavior. Other interests include developing mobile app technologies to sample and investigate drinking decisions in real-life contexts, and developing ways of teaching people

  • Recent Publications (2002-2017)

    Forster, S.E., Finn, P.R., & Brown, J.W. (2017). Neural responses to negative outcomes predict success in community-based substance use treatment. Addiction (PDF)

    Forster, S.E., Finn, P.R., & Brown, J.W. (2016). A preliminary study of longitudinal neuroadaptation associated with recovery from addiction  Drug and Alcohol Dependence (PDF)

    Dai, J., Gunn, R.L., Gerst, K..R., Busemeyer, J Finn, P.R. (2016)  A random utility model of delay discounting and its application to people with externalizing psychopathology. Psychological Assessment.28, 1196-1206 (PDF

    Lake, A.J., Finn, P.R., & James, T.W. (2016)  Neural Correlates of Emotion Reappraisal in Individuals with Externalizing Psychopathology.  Brain Imaging and Behavior (PDF)

    Gunn, R.L. & Finn, P.R. (2015). Applying a dual process model of self-regulation: The association between executive working memory capacity, negative urgency, and negative mood induction on pre-potent response inhibition. Personality and Individual Differences (PDF)

    Finn, P.R., Gunn, R.L.,  & Gerst, K. (2015) The effects of a working memory load on delay discounting  in those with externalizing psychopathology. Clinical Psychological Science (PDF)

    Arcurio, L.R., Finn, P.R., &  James, T. W  (2013) Neural mechanisms of high-risk decisions-to-drink in alcohol dependent women.  Addiction Biology (PDF)

    Fridberg, D., Gerst, K., & Finn, P.R. (2013) Effects of working memory load, a history of conduct disorder, and sex on decision making in substance dependent individuals.  Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 133, 654-660 (PDF)

    Gunn, R.L., Finn, P.R., Endres, M.J., Gerst, K., & Spinola, S. (2013). Dimensions of disinhibited personality and their relation with alcohol use and problems.  Addictive Behaviors, 38, 2352-2360 (PDF)

    Gunn, R., L., & Finn, P.R., (2013). Impulsivity partially mediates the association between reduced working memory capacity and alcohol problems. Alcohol, 47, 3-8 (PDF)

    Bogg, T., & Finn, P.R. (2009).  An Ecologically-Based Model of Alcohol Consumption Decision-Making: Evidence for the Discriminative and Predictive Role of Contextual Reward and Punishment Information. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 70, 446-457 (PDF)

    Bobova, L., Finn, P.R., Rickert, M.E., & Lucas, J. (2009). Disinhibitory Psychopathology andDelay Discounting in Alcohol Dependence: Personality and Cognitive Correlates. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 17,51-61 (PDF)

    Cantrell, E., Finn, P.R., Rickert, M.E, & Lucas J (2008). Decision-Making in Early-OnsetAlcohol Dependence. Insensitivity to Future Consequences and  Co-morbid Disinhibitory Psychopathology. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research , 32, 1398-1407 (PDF)

    Finn, P.R. (2002). Motivation, Working Memory, and Decision Making: A cognitivemotivational theory of vulnerability to alcoholism. Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 1, 181-203 (PDF)