Dr. Iris Balodis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University. Dr. Balodis’ research focuses on motivational processes influencing maladaptive decision-making.
About The Lab:
Dr. Balodis is a core faculty member of the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research (PBCAR), a centre dedicated to addiction research.
Dr. Balodis’ research is focused on understanding how affective processes influence higher order cognitive functions, such as decision-making. Why is there so often a disconnect between our desires and our actions? For example, many people express a genuine desire to lose weight, yet continue to choose to eat calorie-rich foods. In fact, many common societal problems can be attributed to this disconnect: obesity, money mismanagement, and substance abuse all represent cases in which an immediate short-term reward (e.g. a piece of a cake, a 50” flat-screen TV, another beer…) is chosen over a future greater reward (a svelte figure, savings, health). Little is known about how affective processes integrate into core executive functions; this research not only is important for understanding how humans make decisions, but also has significant implications for understanding many psychiatric conditions characterized by poor decision-making. Towards the goal of better understanding these processes, Dr. Balodis’ lab applies functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), psychophysiological, behavioural, and other approaches to various populations demonstrating a range of maladaptive behaviours. These include individuals at risk for addictions, such as young binge drinkers, individuals with gambling disorder, and individuals demonstrating different eating pathologies, such as binge eating disorder.
1. Gambling (Gambling research and GREO Hub Activities)
2. Disordered Eating Research
3. Alcohol Use Disorder Research
4. Cocaine Dependence Studies
5. Adolescent Studies
Instructional cues modify performance on the Iowa Gambling Task
Iris M. Balodis, Tara K. MacDonald, Mary C. Olmstead
Does acute alcohol intoxication produce impaired decision making?
Intact Preference Conditioning in Acute Intoxication Despite Deficient Declarative Knowledge and Working Memory
Iris M. Balodis, Ingrid. S. Johnsrude, and Mary C. Olmstead
Does acute alcohol intoxication have any effects on implicit learning?
Binge drinking in undergraduates: relationships with sex, drinking behaviors, impulsivity, and the perceived effects of alcohol
Iris M. Balodis, Marc N. Potenza and Mary C. Olmstead
Student Opportunities: Dr. Balodis is currently accepting graduate students for the 2017-2018 Fall term.
Students who are interested in joining the PBCAR Lab under my supervision will need to provide the following application requirements:
Email Dr. Balodis at firstname.lastname@example.org with the application requirements to be considered for a student position.
Fiza Arshad is a Masters of Science Candidate in the graduate program at McMaster University studying Neurobiology and Behaviour. Fiza has also completed her undergraduate degree at University of Toronto Scarborough with her Honours Bachelors of Science, Neuroscience Specialist with a minor in Creative Writing. Fiza is in pursuit of a career in either academia or industry research.
Fiza Arshad's research focuses on the dynamics between stress reactivity and gambling disorder. For this purpose, she uses biomarkers, neurocognitive tasks and questionnaires to determine how stress affects gambling behaviour and related executive function.
As a part of the lab, she also works on additional projects, including secondary data analysis and creating clinical handouts for people with a gambling disorder in partnership with a clinician at Alcohol, Drug & Gambling Services (ADGS).
"As Thoreau puts it, 'simplify, simplify, simplify'. Learning, the whole graduate school experience, and life in general is a lot more doable and meaningful."
Tasfia Ahsan is a Bachelor of Science undergraduate student at McMaster University specializing in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour. She plans on pursuing psychology by going into counseling or completing a master's program after graduation.
Tasfia's undergraduate thesis examines the effect of two constructs, interoceptive deficits and emotional dysregulation, on treatment outcome in patients with eating disorders. Her primary focus is on patients diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder (BED); however, she is also interested in looking at these constructs in Anorexia Nervosa (AN) and Bulimia Nervosa (BN) groups. Tasfia uses questionnaires to conduct a retrospective study with patients at the St. Joseph Eating Disorder Clinic in collaboration with Dr. Michele Laliberte and Dr. Balodis.
"Everyone is super supportive and provide positive feedback that has helped me facilitate my thesis work."
Carolyn Zeppieri is in her fourth year of her Honours Communication Studies undergraduate degree at McMaster University. Carolyn intends to pursue a career focused on qualitative research.
Carolyn Zeppieri is completing a communication studies internship under the supervision of Dr. Balodis. Carolyn's primary role is to help Dr. Balodis create an accessible website that disseminates information and resources pertaining to substance and gambling disorders.
"Coming from the humanities, I have become intrigued by the science-side of research and how knowledge transfer is crucial for closing gaps between scientific findings and public knowledge."
Kiran Punia is a Bachelor of Science undergraduate student at McMaster University specializing in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour. Kiran is considering a career working with clients or patients. She is also considering furthering school in the McMaster MiNDS program, or a masters in Psychology, or Disability studies and complete a BCBA; to become a board certified Behaviour Analyst.
Kiran is completing her fourth year research project under Dr. Balodis' supervision as well as working with the eating disorder clinic. Kiran's research project seeks to determine if binge eating disorder patients who have any history with self-harm or suicide attempts effects on their treatment outcomes.
"Researching at PBCAR has been very cool and interesting. It has been a great opportunity to work under Dr. Balodis and the eating disorder clinic. I have also been able to see the clinician perspective and a researcher perspective, which is very challenging, but rewarding and enriching."
Katherine Brooks is completing her third year of her Honours Communication program. Katherine is also completing a minor in Music. After Katherine graduates, she hopes to use the skills she has gain through her academic studies and internship to create a career that combines her passion for communications and music.
Katherine was a Communications Intern at PBCAR working primarily on handouts for clients. These handouts share some of the research findings to help further explain gambling disorders.
"Working with PBCAR was a rewarding experience that showed me the importance of gambling disorder research and awareness, and the positive impact it can have on clients' lives."
I am a third year undergraduate student at McMaster University currently completing a double major in Multimedia & Communications Studies. While Multimedia & Communications offers a wide range of opportunities, after I graduate I plan to work primarily in the field of graphic design seeing as this is one of my favourite and strongest passions.
During my internship placement at PBCAR I have been responsible for creating a wide range of images and logos for the various handouts Dr. Balodis and the team have been working on, mainly using Adobe Illustrator.
"This opportunity has been both a great learning and collaborative experience which I am very thankful for. It has enhanced my knowledge of the graphic design software I used as well as sharpened my ability to adapt in working in a group environment."
Name: Jackie Hudson
Jackie Hudson completed her undergraduate degree at University of Toronto in English. Jackie is a research assistant at Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research for Dr. Balodis and for Dr. Samaan.
Jackie is finishing her work with Dr. Samaan for the Genetics of Opioids Addiction (GENOA) research project. Jackie is now focusing her attention to assisting Dr. Balodis in her Stress and Motivation (SaM) research project. Jackie coordinates the preparations for the experiments and other logistics for the study.
"Changing focus from one area of research to another welcomes new and continuous learning experiences."
Name: Jane De Jesus
Jane De Jesus is the Senior Research Coordinator for the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research. Prior to joining PBCAR, Jane worked for a health research institute for cardiovascular research as a clinical research coordinator in epidemiology, longitudinal studies, case-control studies and randomized controlled trials as well as the international research study monitor. Jane completed her bachelor's degree in science major in medical laboratory technology at University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines. Jane has a professional accreditation in both medical laboratory (Ontario Society of Medical Technologist) and clinical research associate (Society of Clinical Research Associate). Jane is currently a candidate for business administration, management at McMaster University.
Jane's role at PBCAR is to provide support to the chair of PBCAR through operations management, human resources management, financial management, and projects management. Jane is currently working on the PATH registry and the BETA-H study. Jane also helps out with the Balodis Lab by assisting Dr. Balodis as a liaison with her sponsors, such as the Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO) and the construction of the Balodis Lab website.
"Coming from cardiovascular research into addictions and mental health research, has been a very enriching experience. In that perspective, I have gained validated knowledge and greater insight in that most of the cardiovascular disease precursors come from the quality of mental health a person has."
Substance and gambling disorders affect us, our loved ones, and our peers. Using recent research findings we are working to remove barriers and myths surround substance, eating and gambling disorders. We hope to provide information in an accessible manner to raise public knowledge and awareness.
The information provided here is meant for all members of our community:
Contact and Questions:
Information/Requirements about participating
Who can participate?
What is involved?
The Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research (PBCAR) is a Knowledge Hub for the Gambling Research Exchange of Ontario (GREO) with a specialized focus on the neurobiological mechanisms underlying gambling.
A principal goal of the PBCAR is to bridge the gap between scientific research and clinical practice; as a collaborative venture between McMaster University and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, it is ideally positioned to do so.
Aim: The main aim of the PBCAR GREO Knowledge Hub is to engage numerous stakeholders, including students, residents, clinicians, the greater Hamilton community and the broader general public accessible information on the neurobiology of gambling.
We do this through a variety of activities:
Dr. Iris Balodis is working in collaboration with Deirdre Querney, a counselor at Alcohol, Drug and Gambling Services of Hamilton to create clinical handouts for clients with up-to-date information on the neurobiology of gambling. Deirdre Querney is a Registered Social Worker and Certified Problem Gambling Counsellor for the City of Hamilton, Public Health Services and Clinical and Preventive Services. This project is supported through the Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO).
The goal of this project is to bring together problem gambling (PG) researchers and problem gambling clinicians to develop useful clinical handouts for PG counselors. The focus of the handouts is on recent research findings to use with clients based on themes raised by the clients themselves. The clinical handouts aim to translate neurobiology research in an accessible and educational format for problem gambling clients.
Alcohol Drug &Gambling Services (ADGS) – 21 Hunter St E. Hamilton, Ontario 905-546-3606
Professional Services offered by ConnexOntario financially supported by the Government of Ontario. Offer community treatment programs and a Drug & Alcohol Helpline for free health services information.
Drug & Alcohol Helpline: 1-800-565-8603
Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario (PGIO) – 33 Russell St. Toronto, Ontario 416-535-8501
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) provides a multilingual problem gambling service that provides support and treatment services to individuals and family members.
Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline: 1-888-230-3505
Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO) – 55 Wyndham St N. Suite 214A Guelph, Ontario 519-763-8049
Independent Knowledge Hub Organization that supports evidence-informed decisions making in responsible gambling policies, standards and practices.
Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) – 411 Richmond Street East, Suite 205 Toronto, Ontario 416-499-9800
The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is an independent, non-profit organization committed to problem gambling prevention.
Other Related Support Services
Gamblers Anonymous (GA) Ontario 855-222-5542
Gamblers Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from a gambling problem. There are meetup locations across Ontario (See website to find out the closes meetup to you.)
Ontario Hotline Number: 855-2CALLGA (855-222-5542)
Womankind Addiction Service (WAS) – 431 Whitney Ave. Hamilton, Ontario 905-521-9591
Addiction Treatment Center offers a safe space for women in crisis to be assisted by healthcare professionals supported by St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.
24/7 Access Number: 905-545-9100
Men's Addiction Service Hamilton (MASH) – 595 Main Street E. Hamilton, Ontario 905-522-1155
Addiction Treatment Center offers a safe space for men in crisis to be assisted by healthcare professionals supported by St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.
24/7 Access Number: 905-527-9264
Wayside House of Hamilton – 15 Charlton Ave W. Hamilton, Ontario 905-528-8969
Alcoholism Treatment Program for integrated residential addiction treatment and supportive housing for men.
Understanding Terms and Definitions
Binge Eating Disorder
Behaviour and the Brain
Knowledge Transfer: Is the process of sharing reliable information for practical use and to bring about positive change. More about knowledge transfer can be found here: http://greo.ca/knowledge-transfer/about-knowledge-translation-and-exchange