Tiffany Love, Ph.D.
Departments: Psychiatry - Adjunct Assistant Professor
Divisions: Adult Psychiatry
Academic Office Information
- Social Determinants of Health
- Social Support
- Social Behavior
- Functional Neuroimaging
Tiffany Love, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Utah with an extensive background in psychiatric neuroimaging and expertise in the areas of stress and motivation. Primarily, Dr. Love’s academic interests focus on understanding the neurobiological processes that underlie sensitivity to pain, reward, and addiction. She has over 17 years of experience utilizing neuroimaging to answer important research questions in the domains of addiction, mood, hormonal regulation, reward, and stress. Over the course of her career, Dr. Love has been strongly committed to conducting patient-oriented translational research. Using imaging techniques including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), arterial spin labeling (ASL), magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), and positron emission tomography (PET), Dr. Love has applied her experience and training towards investigating the neurobiological mechanisms conferring risk for psychiatric disorders and explored the influence of sex and reproductive hormones on neural responses to salient stimuli and their relationship to motivational and behavioral functioning.
Reward and motivational systems in the brain are responsible for assigning appropriate significance to everyday stimuli and establishing suitable responses. When these systems are affected by disease, reactions to natural rewards like food, sex and social interactions can be impaired. This can have significant impact on livelihood and can lead to severe impairment of an individual's health and well-being. In the case of substance use disorders (SUD), chronic drug exposure is associated with declines in social functioning, which is predictive of poorer disease trajectory. The origins of such impairments are not known, however, a growing body of evidence suggests drug use can alter reward pathways that are responsive to a wide array of incentives including social rewards. Unfortunately, this is an understudied area and the precise neurochemical elements that underlie such disruptions in social functioning in SUD are not well understood.
The goal of my research is to obtain better understanding of how the processing of social incentives is affected by chronic drug use. My current work explores how oxytocin, a neuropeptide known for its role in facilitating social interactions, may influence neural responses to social rewards. Preliminary studies conducted by our laboratory and others suggest oxytocin administration can affect neural activity within reward-sensitive areas in healthy subjects. Whether oxytocinergic modulation of these reward circuits is affected by chronic drug use has not been well studied in humans. This is of significant interest as oxytocin has been shown to interfere with addiction processes (i.e. tolerance formation, withdrawal, and self-administration) and clinical trials are currently underway which explore the use of oxytocin as an adjunctive therapy for SUD.
University of Michigan, Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute
University of Michigan
University of New Mexico
Biology & Psychology; Minor: Chemistry
|01/01/2019||Committee Member||Organization for Human Brain Mapping Education Committee||Global|