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, Center for Addiction Research and Education (CARE)

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.

Ben Lewis, PhD
Ben Lewis, PhD
Assistant Professor

Ben Lewis

Assistant Professor
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.

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 received a 2017 University of Florida Superior Accomplishment Award. Robert is a member of the Research Society on Alcoholism.


Julianne Price

Graduate Research Assistant
Julianne joined 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

Graduate 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). In fall 2016 Christian became a candidate in the Behavioral Cognitive Neuroscience program within the University of Florida’s Psychology Department. Christian is a member of the Research Society on Alcoholism.


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.