Weve all done it.

Most of us have stopped at a fast food restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat, rather than waiting and taking to the time to make a healthier meal at home. But this impulsive behavior, typical to everyone, may also be correlated with other risky behaviors, like drug abuse.

Dr. Karen Anderson of West Virginia Universitys Department of Psychology is currently researching whether the kind of impulsive decision-making associated with drug use is the result of an acute drug effect, a consequence of long-term drug exposure, or a pre-existing behavioral history and genetic make-up.

Andersons study,Effects of Abused Drugs and Genetics on Impulsive Choice,is being funded by the National Institutes of Health. Shes using laboratory rats to investigate the acute and chronic effects of drugs on impulsive choice.

Impulsivity, Anderson explained, is clinically defined as a persons act of choosing a smaller, more immediate outcome over one thats delayed, but larger. The big picture isnt always as prettybecause of the wait involved.

But unlike a spur-of-the-moment spin up to the drive-though window, Anderson is finding that drug abusers tend to avoid that delayed outcome to a much greater extent than non-drug abusers.

Its the same kind of behavior that shows up in other risky pursuits, Anderson said, like gambling, needle-sharing or showing a bent toward violence.

Anderson earned her doctorate in the Experimental Analysis of Behavior Program at the University of Florida. She also holds her bachelors and masters degrees from there.

She completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Division of Neurobiology and Behavior Research at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where she remained as assistant professor until joining WVU in 2003.

NIH is one of the worlds foremost medical research centers. Its mission is to acquire knowledge for the treatment, detection and diagnosis of disease and disabilities.

For more information on the study, contact Dr. Karen Anderson at Karen.Anderson@mail.wvu.edu .