Office: 3520 Forbes Avenue, Parkvale Annex 203,

Phone: 412-864-2461

Fax: 412-864-2464


Levent Kirisci, PhD
Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences

I received an M.A. degree in mathematical statistics (1985) and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees (1982 and 1990) in applied statistics. Following a staff position at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, I was appointed to the faculty in 1995 as Assistant Professor. I was promoted to Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Psychiatry in 2003 and Professor in 2010, and tenured in 2013. I have been Co-Principal Investigator and Director of the Methodology and Statistics Core of the NIDA-funded Center for Education and Drug Abuse Research since 1995. I am the recipient of Independence Scientist Award since 2005.
My primary expertise and research focus are devising and evaluating psychometric tools. With support from Independent Scientist Award since 2005, I have spearheaded development of an interval scale to measure the psychological components of SUD liability common across the DSM-IV categories. Employing item response theory, in conjunction with longitudinal multivariate modeling, a scale termed the liability index has been provisionally validated to quantify SUD risk at ages 10-12, 12-14, 16 and 19 in boys and age 10-12 in girls. This research will be extended in the forthcoming period of the K02 to encompass the period of risk up to age 30 in males and age 28 in females.
Notably, my work in instrument development has been integrated into investigations of SUD etiology, including measurement of social cognition, decision making and biological mechanisms. In this facet of my research, I have focused on a cardinal component of the SUD liability phenotype, termed neurobehavior disinhibition. This research has been informative for elucidating the neurological, endocrinoIogical, and social contextual aspects of SUD etiology as well as longitudinally distinct trajectories to SUD. I have also conceptualized and empirically validated a novel framework for measuring substance use topology during adolescence and proposed a model of symptom definitions for adolescent SUD.

Research Interest

My current research is to integrate statistical and psychometric methods of deriving a practical and valid assessment of SUD liability as part of the overarching aim of this Independent Scientist Award (K02) application. Employing item response theory, in conjunction with longitudinal multivariate modeling, the product of the proposed research is a continuous scale that quantifies individual risk for SUD at ages 10-12, 16, 19, and 22. I will utilize the findings accrued in etiology research documenting manifold factors contributing to the risk for SUD to develop a self-administered assessment for practical application using traditional (paper and pencil) as well as more contemporary methods (computer adaptive testing). To achieve this goal, I will access the Center for Education on Drug Abuse Research's (CEDAR) consolidated database consisting of multidisciplinary protocols for measurement of biological, psychological, and environmental factors prospectively from ages 10-12 to age 30.