An addiction expert at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute has received a $3.2 million grant in his quest to help people quit smoking.
The grant, awarded to Tech psychology professor Warren Bickel, is one of the largest in the short history of the Roanoke-based institute, which opened in 2010.
The funds from the National Institute of Drug Abuse will be spread out over five years to support Bickel’s work.
Hundreds of smokers will be recruited for the research, which will focus on how the brain of a nicotine-addicted person can support poor decision making — such as discounting the long-term health benefits of not smoking for the instant gratification of a cigarette.
Bickel’s hypothesis is that smokers who discount the future the most are also the most addicted, caught up in their immediate circumstances to the point that nicotine craving has an exaggerated effect on their brains.
If that hypothesis is confirmed, the research will turn toward helping those smokers build resistance through behavioral exercises.