Psychology professor recognized for HIV and drug abuse research

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has awarded psychology professor Raul Gonzalez the Outstanding Early Career Investigator Award for 2013.

This prestigious and highly selective national award is conferred annually by the Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research at NIDA to recognize outstanding early career investigators. Gonzalez, who also is the director of the Substance Use and HIV Neuropsychology Lab (SUHN) in FIU’s Center for Children and Families, was honored in May at the NIDA headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.

“I feel incredibly honored and lucky to be recognized by NIDA,” Gonzalez said. “As the premier federal agency driving the agenda on drug addiction research, NIDA’s recognition of my work feels like an incredible vote of confidence. To me, this award validates further the mission of the SUHN Lab, the hard work of our staff and students, and the time and service given by our participants to make our studies possible.”

Raul Gonzalez

Gonzalez studies the relationship between the brain and behavior of HIV positive and negative individuals with substance abuse problems. His research looks at the ways the disease and addiction affect an individual’s ability to make decisions.

“There is often an overlap between HIV and substance abuse,” Gonzalez said. “I want to understand who has a predisposition to develop an addiction and who doesn’t.”

An expert in drug abuse and risky behaviors, Gonzalez has written more than 40 publications, with a large portion of his work focused on the neurocognitive effects of marijuana. He is part of the School of Integrated Science and Humanity’s Cognitive Neuroscience Initiative and is currently conducting research related to marijuana use as it relates to decision-making in teens as well as in HIV positive adults.

Gonzalez hopes his research will lead to an understanding of what makes people vulnerable to addiction. He wants to generate knowledge to improve people’s lives and empower individuals to make informed decisions about their health care.

As part of the National Institutes of Health, NIDA addresses the most fundamental and essential questions about drug abuse. It supports research training, career development, public education, public-private partnerships and research dissemination efforts.

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