Sunrise Session

Tim Shahan

Understanding Addictions: Animal Lessons for Human Health

People engage in a variety of addictive, shortsighted, self-destructive behaviors despite serious negative consequences and a stated desire to quit. Even after a successful attempt to quit, people often relapse and return to the self-destructive behavior. Dr. Shahan and his collaborators examine how such persistent and seemingly irrational behavior results from basic biological processes of learning that are conserved across species. The ability of humans and other animals to predict important environmental events and to learn about the consequences of their actions are critical survival skills. Nonetheless, given the right circumstances, the processes governing such learning can also lead to persistent maladaptive behavior. By studying how basic behavior processes contribute to both adaptive and maladaptive behavior, Dr. Shahan’s team is contributing to our fundamental understanding of human nature and reducing the human-health and economic costs associated with addictive and self-destructive behavior.

Tim Shahan

Associate Professor,
Department of Psychology
Utah State University

(435) 797-7619

Tim Shahan received his Ph.D. in Psychology from West Virginia University in 1998. As a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Vermont, he studied how basic learning processes contribute to cigarette smoking and drug abuse. Dr. Shahan joined the faculty of USU in 2003. He is currently an appointed member of the National Institute of Health’s Biobehavioral, Regulation, Learning, & Ethology grant review study section. He was the 2006 recipient of the B. F. Skinner Young Researcher Award from Division 25 of the American Psychological Association and was the 2007 Researcher of the Year for the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services. Dr. Shahan’s research program has generated millions of dollars of funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Dr. Shahan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology.