Ralph E. Tarter, Ph.D. is Director of the NIDA-funded Center for Education and Drug Abuse Research (CEDAR) and Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. His research interests focus on the neurobehavioral antecedents and consequences of substance abuse. On these topics, he has published 11 books, over 200 peer reviewed articles, and 71 book chapters. Ongoing research pertains to identifying the biobehavioral risk factors underlying the risk for the substance use disorders within a developmental perspective. Using information gathered in etiologic investigations, encompassing genetic, biochemical, psychopathological and epidemiological methods.
Dr. Tarter has served as associate editor for two journals and is on the editorial board of 12 other journals. He as a founding member of the Society for Prevention Research in 1993 and its official journal Prevention Science. For eight years, he served as its treasurer and has received recognition for his efforts on behalf of the Society in 1999 and 2001. He is a fellow of several scientific societies. He co-chaired a Gordon conference in 1989, served on NRC/IOM Committee on Drug Abuse (1989-1991) and on committees of various other organizations.
Investigations are directed at determining the developmental trajectory to addiction. A main focus of this research pertains to identifying the mechanisms underlying the acquisition of psychological self-regulation, specifically the utilization of cognitive processes involved in the control of emotion, behavior, and motivation. The guiding hypothesis is that psychological self-regulation, subserved by the prefrontal cortex, is the main component of the childhood vulnerability to addiction.
The neurologic mechanisms underlying psychological self-regulation are investigated using neurophysiological, functional neuroimaging and neuropsychological methods. A key focus of research pertains to determining how endocrinological changes occurring during the transition from childhood to adolescence impacts on self-regulation capacity. Accordingly, neuromaturation and reproductive maturation are conjointly studied in context of multiple environmental influencers which potentially bias the child toward substance abuse and addiction. In addition, employing a prospective paradigm enables learning about the relative influence of licit, illicit and prescribed drugs on the progression to addiction in context of other adverse outcomes, including HIV/AIDS, mental illness, suicide, unplanned pregnancy, and criminality.
Habeych, M.E., Charles, P.J., Sclabassi, R., Kirisci, L., & Tarter, R. (2004). Direct and mediated associations between P300 amplitude in childhood and SUD outcome in young adulthood. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 76-82.
Tarter, R.E., Kirisci, L., Habeych, M., Reynolds, M., & Vanyukov, M. (2004). Neurobehavior disinhibition in childhood predisposes boys to substance use disorder by young adulthood: direct and mediated etiologic pathways. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 73, 121-132.
Tarter, R.E., Kirisci, L., Mezzich, A., Cornelius, J.R., Pajer, K., Vanyukov, M., Gardner, W., Blackson, T., & Clark, D. (2003). Neurobehavioral disinhibition in childhood predicts early age at onset of substance use disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 1078-1085.
Tarter, R. ( 2002). Etiology of adolescent substance abuse: A developmental perspective. The American Journal on Addictions, 11, 171-191.
Kirisci, L., Dunn, M.G., Mezzich, A.C., & Tarter, R.E. (2002). Impact of paternal substance use disorder and child neglect severity on substance use involvement in male offspring. Prevention Science, 5, 241-255.
Tarter, R.E., Kirisci, L., Vanyukov, M., Cornelius, J., Pajer, K., Shoal, G.D., & Giancola, P. (2002). Predicting adolescent violence: Impact of family history, substance use, psychiatry history, and social adjustment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 1541-1547.