Purpose-built cognitive assessment tool with integrated artificial intelligence will help detect risk for addictions

MICCN researchers are seeking to better understand the underlying latent cognitive and motivational structures driving addictions, across a spectrum of substance and behavioural addictions, to ultimately better understand, detect and treat people with addictive disorders.

In Australia, people with substance and behavioural addictions have an associated 14 year lower life expectancy. Traditionally, the clinical assessment of individuals with a substance or behavioural addiction has either used tools that are often insensitive to detecting the cognitive problems, or has focused on the measurement of the target behavioural problem, such as the frequency or severity of alcohol use. By contrast, the underlying causative neurocognitive mechanisms placing an individual at risk of developing and maintaining these behaviours are neglected, despite a wealth of scientific evidence supporting a key role for neurocognition.

A large-scale DELPHI study of 37 world-leading international experts in addiction helped to establish a consensus framework on the core neurocognitive constructs most critical to driving addictions. Partnering with industry leading game developers (Torus Games), MICCN designed and built an online battery of assessment tools based on gold standard paradigms aimed at validly and reliably measuring these underlying neurocognitive processes, efficiently and engagingly at scale.

Thanks to a recent NHMRC grant awarded to Prof Murat Yücel and Dr Rico Lee, alongside Dr Sam Chamberlain from the University of Cambridge, U.K., the team will use this technology to validate the constructs derived from the DELPHI study in 10,000 people with a view to understanding the underlying latent structure of cognitive and motivational drivers of addictions across a spectrum of addictive behaviours and severities.

“The outcomes of this project will lead to a significant advance in our understanding of the underlying neurocognitive architecture that underpins poor decisions and maladaptive behaviours that we often see across a range of addictions. We will then very quickly turn this knowledge into practical and engaging tools that affected individuals, clinical services and other researchers can use,” Prof Yücel said. “We hope to then develop a validated, consensus-derived framework that will serve to inform the development of interventions aimed at targeting novel, brain-based cognitive phenotypes across addictive behaviours. In addition, we will develop a scientifically-validated tool that can measure and monitor the neurocognitive processes driving addictive disorders across both healthcare settings and the general non-help-seeking community. Ultimately, our findings could help to change many people’s lives for the better through more impactful treatment of addictive behaviours.”

We congratulate Prof Yücel and Dr Lee on this achievement and look forward to their research results!

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L-R : Prof Murat Yücel and Dr Rico Lee