Neurocognitive Laboratory Personnel

Sara Jo Nixon, PhD Professor

Sara Jo Nixon, PhD

Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator
Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, College of Medicine, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Chief, Division of Addiction Research; Director, Neurocognitive Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, UF College of Medicine; Director, Biobehavioral Core, Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), UF

Research Summary
Dr. Nixon’s clinical research program focuses on the neurobehavioral concomitants of substance use and abuse using both behavioral and neurophysiological methods. She and her team are particularly interested in testing conceptual models which might inform treatment and intervention efforts and in exploring issues of sex, age, and race/ethnicity.

Ph.D., University of Oklahoma, Department of Psychology; Postdoctoral Fellow (NIH-funded), Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Current Projects
Because of the complex nature of substance abuse, Dr. Nixon’s work uses comprehensive behavioral assessments including neuropsychological testing, brain electrophysiology (electroencephalography and event-related potentials), and clinical research interviews. Her team is currently conducting a NIAAA funded R01 directed to clarifying the intersection of cognitive and emotional processing in men and women who are either seeking treatment for a substance use disorder or do not meet these criteria and might participate as community participants. A critical component of this project involves working with treatment and community groups throughout North Central Florida.

Another study in her laboratory includes analysis of a recently completed study funded by the NIAAA exploring the acute effects of alcohol in healthy older (55-70) and younger social drinkers. Although recruitment for this study has concluded, several key issues including the analysis of sex differences and driving performance under different conditions remain to be examined.

In addition to these efforts, her team is involved in the conduct of a pilot study designed to assess the feasibility and efficacy of an FDA approved medication on cognition and abstinence in small group of men and women seeking treatment for alcohol use disorders. In the near future, we anticipate initiating a Phase 2 trial that will examine the impact of a new compound on smoking cessation efforts in a sample of healthy current smokers.

Her team is also participating in a collaborative effort with Drs. Betsy Shenkman and Kim Case. This project is a novel behavioral intervention designed to improve health outcomes in a chronically ill population. Dr. Nixon’s laboratory is working with data collected through the telephone-administered short cognitive battery. We hope to determine to what extent baseline cognitive abilities are associated with outcomes while also exploring whether changes cognitive abilities correlate with changes in health across time.

Robert Prather

Lab Manager
Robert joined the Neurocognitive Laboratory in 2003 after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Kentucky. He moved with Dr. Nixon and other staff from Lexington to Gainesville in 2006. Robert is a member of the Research Society on Alcoholism and the American Public Health Association.

Layla Lincoln

Assistant Lab Manager
Layla joined the Neurocognitive Laboratory in 2011 after moving to the Gainesville area. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Layla is a current member of the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Ben Lewis

Postdoctoral Fellow
Ben joined the Neurocognitive Laboratory in 2012 after receiving his doctorate from the University of Kentucky. His master’s research focused on neurobiological deficits associated with fetal alcohol exposure. His doctoral work involved development of novel medications for treatment of alcoholism using molecular, cellular, and preclinical behavioral models. He has been a member of the Research Society on Alcoholism since 2005.

Julianne Price

Incoming Graduate Research Assistant
Julianne will be joining the lab in the fall of 2015 as a Ph.D. candidate in the Behavioral Cognitive Neuroscience program within the University of Florida’s Psychology Department. She received her B.A. in Psychology/Criminology and her M.S. in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience, both from The University of Texas at Dallas. She is also the former head research coordinator in the Addiction Psychiatry Division of UT Southwestern Medical Center. Julianne is a member of the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Christian Garcia

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Christian joined the Neurocognitive Laboratory as an undergraduate level research assistant in 2014. In the spring of 2014, he was accepted as a University of Florida College of Medicine scholar for the University Scholars program (USP). Under the direction of Dr. Sara Jo Nixon he will investigate substance use trajectories among racial/ethnic minority populations in north central and northeast Florida.

Lisa Domenico

Postdoctoral Fellow
Lisa joined the Neurocognitive Laboratory in 2015 after receiving her PhD from the University of Michigan. She completed her BSN from York University in Toronto, Canada. Her dissertation research focused on identifying and mapping the structural properties of drinking and recovery-related self-referential neurocognitive networks among persons with DSM-5 moderate to severe alcohol use disorder; and identifying the relationship between structural properties and impaired problem recognition.

Mythili Hazarika

Postdoctoral Short Term Research Fogarty Fellow
Mythili joined the Neurocognitive Laboratory in 2014 August for six months and rejoined from July 2015 for another six months after receiving her doctorate from the University of Gauhati, India. She has done her M-Phil in Clinical Psychology from National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore and Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Pune, India. Her master’s work focused on attachment styles, self-esteem and quality of marital life among distressed and non-distressed couples. Her doctoral work involved learning more about styles of attachment, personality correlates as well as family dynamics among alcoholics which was an inter-generational study among fathers with dependent and non-dependent use of alcohol and their sons. She is working as a full time faculty in Clinical Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Assam, India. She has been a member of the State Mental Health Authority, State Legal Services Authority, Govt. of Assam and a steering committee member of the National Tobacco Control Program, Govt. of Assam, India.

Sarah Reaves

Research Coordinator
Sarah joined the Neruocognitive Laboratory in 2015 after moving to Gainesville form Atlanta. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Mississippi State University and a Master of Science in Psychology from Georgia Institute of Technology. She manages a large-scale national collaborative research project that follows children, aged 9 and 10 at outset, for a period of 10 years. Responsibilities include overseeing day-to-day operations, assisting in the recruitment of participants, scheduling, administering assessments, follow-up contact, and coordination of subject payments.

Christopher Day

Research Assistant
Christopher assists with administering protocol elements within the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study to participating families. Assist in outreach activities including distributing recruitment materials and identifying potential recruitment activities.