Dr. Warren Bickel

Reinforcer Pathology: Identification of a Novel Determinant of Addiction 

Reinforcer pathology, a recent development in the field of behavioral economics, specifies that the temporal window over which reinforcers are integrated is a previously unspecified determinant of drug value; that is, the length of the window of integration can vary, and, in turn, alter the valuation of different reinforcers. Short temporal windows of integration will tend to increase the value of intense, reliable and brief reinforcers such as drugs, while leading to a decline in the value of reinforcers that are less intense, variable and accrue value over longer time frames such as prosocial reinforcers. Conversely, long temporal windows of integration should result in a reversal in the valuation of drug and prosocial reinforcers.  Importantly, reinforcer pathology provides an understanding the “anhedonia” that often occurs in the development of addiction and suggests a novel approach to treatment; namely, to increase the length of the temporal integration window. In this presentation, this model and data supporting it will be reviewed.

About Warren Bickel

Dr. Warren Bickel joined the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in 2011 and serves as Director of the Addiction Recovery Research Center and Co-Director of the Center for Transformative Research on Health Behaviors. In recognition of his extraordinary contributions to research and scholarship achievements, Dr. Bickel was awarded the Virginia Tech Carilion Behavioral Health Research Endowed Professorship in 2016.

He received his Ph.D. in developmental and child psychology from the University of Kansas and completed post‑doctoral training at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He has taught and led research programs at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the University of Vermont, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.  NIH has funded Dr. Bickel’s work continuously since 1987.

Dr. Bickel is an accomplished scholar and researcher whose accolades include receipt of the 2011 APA International Don Hake Translational Research Distinguished Contributions to Basic Research Award and the 2012 Brady-Schuster Award for Outstanding Behavioral Science Research in Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse, Division 28 of the American Psychological Association (APA).  Dr. Bickel was honored to be the recipient of the 2016 Nathan B. Eddy Award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence.

He has served as President of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, President of APA Division 28, and President of APA Division 50.  Dr. Bickel was Editor of the journal, Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, has co-edited five books, and has published over 400 papers and chapters. Dr. Bickel’s work is frequently cited and receives national and international recognition.