University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Vermont Center on Behavior and Health

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P20GM103644 (PI: Stephen T. Higgins)
Agency: NIGMS
Vermont Center on Behavior and Health


Download the COBRE Center Grant Fact Sheet (PDF)



The Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) project is funded by the NIH’s National Institute on General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).   The project focuses on investigating relationships between personal behaviors and risk for chronic disease and premature death.   Unhealthy personal behaviors (e.g., substance abuse, physical inactivity) account for 40% of premature deaths in the U.S. annually and substantially increase healthcare costs and health disparities.

There is a tremendous need for (a) greater scientific understanding of the mechanisms underpinning vulnerability to these risk behaviors and (b) more effective interventions to promote behavior change.

We approach these challenges using the concepts, principles, and methods of behavioral economics and behavioral pharmacology.   This effort involves key interdisciplinary collaborations (a) across multiple academic departments and colleges within UVM, (b) with key Vermont community healthcare leaders, and (c) with other universities, including Brown University and University of Kentucky.

Specific Aims of this project are:

Aim 1: This COBRE establishes the cores necessary to develop and sustain a vibrant interdisciplinary center of research excellence.   Goals of this aim include providing (a) an Administrative Core that provides leadership, organizational structure, intellectual infrastructure (e.g., seminar series, annual national conference), a mentoring plan, fiscal management, and strategic planning for fiscal support beyond COBRE funding; (b) a Behavioral Economics and Intervention Sciences Core that supports intervention development and evaluation, econometric modeling of cost effectiveness, and the study of health-related decision making and its neurobiological underpinnings, and (c) a Collaboration, Dissemination, and Education Core to facilitate those key missions.

Aim 2: This COBRE supports the selection and career development of excellent junior faculty Project Directors (PDs) who are the nucleus of the center.  The PDs and their research topics are: (1) Robert Althoff, MD, PhD, Shared Mechanisms in Child Dysregulation, Adult Psychopathology, and Metabolic Disorders; (2) Diann Gaalema, PhD, Incentives to Improve Cardiac Rehabilitation Participation in Low-income Patients; (3) Julie Phillips, MD, Incentives Targeting Gestational Weight Gain in Overweight/Obese Low-income Women; (4) Kim Dittus, MD, PhD, Predictors of Weight Loss Success in Overweight Breast Cancer Survivors; (5) Susan Lakoski, MD, Behaviors, Chronic Disease, and Quality of Life After Ductal Carcinoma In Situ.

This project brings together an interdisciplinary group of accomplished senior scientists, promising junior investigators, and distinguished advisors and collaborators to work closely together as a center of excellence in an area of clinical research that is vitally important to the U.S. public health.

Last modified May 05 2016 12:03 PM