Mustafa al`Absi, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Behavioral Sciences - UMD



Research Interests:

Biobehavioral Mechanisms of Stress and Nicotine Addiction
This program focuses on identifying the biological processes that are responsible for the effects of stress and other psychological factors on nicotine addiction and smoking relapse. The program involves multiple laboratory studies that include the assessment of cardiovascular and neuroendocrine functions during rest and in response to a battery of acute behavioral challenges. In addition, we also conduct naturalistic studies that involve the assessment of cortisol, blood pressure, and mood measures during everyday life in smokers and nonsmokers.

Psychobiology of Stress and Cardiovascular Risk
The goal of this program is to develop a knowledge base to help us understand how stress and other psychological factors contribute to the risk for hypertension development. My collaborators and I were among the first group of scientists to demonstrate that hypertension risk was associated with exaggerated adrenocortical responses to stress. Our findings have been cited and replicated in several laboratories around the world. In addition, we recently discovered that pain sensitivity is attenuated in the offspring of hypertensives. This was a significant finding in light of the observation that persons with hypertension are less sensitive to pain, and therefore might not readily recognize signs of a heart attack.

The ongoing research involves longitudinal and multiple cross-sectional experiments to address the hypothesis that hypertension and pain perception share common pathophysiological mechanisms. The research integrates pharmacological, physiological, and behavioral approaches to determine the nature of the stress response in participants at high risk for hypertension. This program employs pharmacological probes to identify potential central nervous system mechanisms of the exaggerated stress response in hypertension-prone individuals. In addition, we are also evaluating pain sensitivity and the stress response as predictors of longitudinal changes in blood pressure.

Sources of Funding for Our Research
  National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute)
  National Institutes of Health (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  National Institutes of Health (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
  National Institutes of Health ( Fogarty International Center )
  American Heart Association

Selected Publications:

(For a comprehensive list of recent publications, refer to PubMed, a service provided by the National Library of Medicine.)

Lemieux A, al'Absi M. Stress psychobiology in the context of addiction medicine: from drugs of abuse to behavioral addictions. Prog Brain Res. 2016;223:43-62.

Baingana F, al'Absi M, Becker AE, Pringle B. Global research challenges and opportunities for mental health and substance-use disorders. Nature. 2015 Nov 19;527(7578):S172-7. PMID: 26580324

Huttlin EA, Allen AM, Tosun NL, Allen SS, al'Absi M. Associations between adrenocortical activity and nicotine response in female smokers by menstrual phase. Addict Behav. 2015 Nov;50:135-9.

Nyongesa A, Oduma J, al'Absi M, Chirwa S. Immunohistochemical localization of anterior pituitary cell types of vervet monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops) following sub-chronic cathinone exposure. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Aug 12:JEPD1501109.

Lemieux A, Nakajima M, Hatsukami DK, Allen S, al'Absi M. Changes in circulating leptin levels during the initial stage of cessation are associated with smoking relapse. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 Sep;232(18):3355-61.

Bongard S, Nakajima M, al'Absi M. Khat chewing and acculturation in East-African migrants living in Frankfurt am Main/Germany. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Apr 22;164:223-8.

al'Absi M, Lemieux A, Nakajima M, Hatsukami DK, Allen S. Circulating leptin and pain perception among tobacco-dependent individuals. Biol Psychol. 2015 Apr;107:10-5.

al'Absi M, Nakajima M, Allen S, Lemieux A, Hatsukami D. Sex differences in hormonal responses to stress and smoking relapse: a prospective examination. Nicotine Tob Res. 2015 Apr;17(4):382-9.

Allen AM, Lunos S, Heishman SJ, al'Absi M, Hatsukami D, Allen SS. Subjective response to nicotine by menstrual phase. Addict Behav. 2015 Apr;43:50-3.

Lemieux AM, Li B, al'Absi M. Khat use and appetite: an overview and comparison of amphetamine, khat and cathinone. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Feb 3;160:78-85.

Allen AM, al'Absi M, Lando H, Allen SS. Allopregnanolone association with psychophysiological and cognitive functions during acute smoking abstinence in premenopausal women. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2015 Feb;23(1):22-8.

Hinderaker K, Allen AM, Tosun N, al'Absi M, Hatsukami D, Allen SS. The effect of combination oral contraceptives on smoking-related symptomatology during short-term smoking abstinence. Addict Behav. 2015 Feb;41:148-51.

Allen AM, al'Absi M, Lando H, Allen SS. Allopregnanolone association with psychophysiological and cognitive functions during acute smoking abstinence in premenopausal women. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2015 Feb;23(1):22-8.

al'Absi M, Lemieux A, Nakajima M. Peptide YY and ghrelin predict craving and risk for relapse in abstinent smokers. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014 Nov;49:253-9.

Nakajima M, al'Absi M. Nicotine withdrawal and stress-induced changes in pain sensitivity: a cross-sectional investigation between abstinent smokers and nonsmokers. Psychophysiology. 2014 Oct;51(10):1015-22.

Nakajima M, Dokam A, Alsameai A, AlSoofi M, Khalil N, al'Absi M. Severity of khat dependence among adult khat chewers: the moderating influence of gender and age. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Sep 29;155(3):1467-72.

Potretzke S, Nakajima M, Cragin T, al'Absi M. Changes in circulating leptin levels during acute stress and associations with craving in abstinent smokers: a preliminary investigation. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014 Sep;47:232-40.

Vogel RI, Hertsgaard LA, Dermody SS, Luo X, Moua L, Allen S, al'Absi M, Hatsukami DK. Sex differences in response to reduced nicotine content cigarettes. Addict Behav. 2014 Jul;39(7):1197-204.

al'Absi M, Nakajima M, Dokam A, Sameai A, Alsoofi M, Saem Khalil N, Al Habori M. Concurrent tobacco and khat use is associated with blunted cardiovascular stress response and enhanced negative mood: a cross-sectional investigation. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2014 Jul;29(4):307-15.

Widmann M, Warsame AH, Mikulica J, von Beust J, Isse MM, Ndetei D, al'Absi M, Odenwald MG. Khat Use, PTSD and Psychotic Symptoms among Somali Refugees in Nairobi - A Pilot Study. Front Public Health. 2014 Jun 30;2:71.

Nakajima M, Dokam A, Kasim AN, Alsoofi M, Khalil NS, al'Absi M. Habitual khat and concurrent khat and tobacco use are associated with subjective sleep quality. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014 May 22;11:E86.

Allen SS, Allen AM, Tosun N, Lunos S, al'Absi M, Hatsukami D. Smoking- and menstrual-related symptomatology during short-term smoking abstinence by menstrual phase and depressive symptoms. Addict Behav. 2014 May;39(5):901-6.

Nakajima M, Hoffman R, al'Absi M. Poor working memory and reduced blood pressure levels in concurrent users of khat and tobacco. Nicotine Tob Res. 2014 Mar;16(3):279-87.

Rahman M, Bari R, Ali AA, Sharmin M, Raij A, Hovsepian K, Hossain SM, Ertin E, Kennedy A, Epstein DH, Preston KL, Jobes M, Beck JG, Kedia S, Ward KD, al'Absi M, Kumar S. Are We There Yet? Feasibility of Continuous Stress Assessment via Wireless Physiological Sensors. ACM BCB. 2014;2014:479-488.

Allen AM, al'Absi M, Lando H, Hatsukami D, Allen SS. Menstrual phase, depressive symptoms, and allopregnanolone during short-term smoking cessation. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2013 Dec;21(6):427-33.

Maatoug J, Harrabi I, Hmad S, Belkacem M, al'Absi M, Lando H, Ghannem H. Clustering of risk factors with smoking habits among adults, Sousse, Tunisia. Prev Chronic Dis. 2013 Dec 19;10:E211.

Nakajima M, al'Absi M. Patterns of change in affect and adrenocortical activity over an extended period of smoking abstinence. Psychol Addict Behav. 2013 Dec;27(4):1189-95.

Hoffman R, al'Absi M. Concurrent use of khat and tobacco is associated with verbal learning and delayed recall deficits. Addiction. 2013 Oct;108(10):1855-62.

Nakajima M, al'Absi M. Psychosocial deterrents of tobacco and khat use among men and women. Public Health. 2013 Jul;127(7):684-6.

Hatsukami DK, Hertsgaard LA, Vogel RI, Jensen JA, Murphy SE, Hecht SS, Carmella SG, al'Absi M, Joseph AM, Allen SS. Reduced nicotine content cigarettes and nicotine patch. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013 Jun;22(6):1015-24.

Nakajima M, al'Absi M, Dokam A, Alsoofi M, Khalil NS, Al Habori M. Gender differences in patterns and correlates of khat and tobacco use. Nicotine Tob Res. 2013 Jun;15(6):1130-5.

Allen SS, Allen AM, Kotlyar M, Lunos S, al'Absi M, Hatsukami D. Menstrual phase and depressive symptoms differences in physiological response to nicotine following acute smoking abstinence. Nicotine Tob Res. 2013 Jun;15(6):1091-8.

Kotlyar M, al'Absi M, Thuras P, Vuchetich JP, Adson DE, Nowack AL, Hatsukami DK. Effect of paroxetine on physiological response to stress and smoking. Psychosom Med. 2013 Apr;75(3):236-43.

al'Absi M, Nakajima M, Grabowski J. Stress response dysregulation and stress-induced analgesia in nicotine dependent men and women. Biol Psychol. 2013 Apr;93(1):1-8.

Nakajima M, Kumar S, Wittmers L, Scott MS, al'Absi M. Psychophysiological responses to stress following alcohol intake in social drinkers who are at risk of hazardous drinking. Biol Psychol. 2013 Apr;93(1):9-16.

al'Absi M, Khalil NS, Al Habori M, Hoffman R, Fujiwara K, Wittmers L. Effects of chronic khat use on cardiovascular, adrenocortical, and psychological responses to stress in men and women. Am J Addict. 2013 Mar-Apr;22(2):99-107.

Hoffman R, al'Absi M. Working memory and speed of information processing in chronic khat users: preliminary findings. Eur Addict Res. 2013;19(1):1-6.

Nakajima M, al'Absi M, Dokam A, Alsoofi M, Khalil NS. An examination of the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence among concurrent tobacco and khat users. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2012 Nov-Dec;44(5):437-41.

Nakajima M, al'Absi M. Predictors of risk for smoking relapse in men and women: a prospective examination. Psychol Addict Behav. 2012 Sep;26(3):633-7.

al'Absi M, Nakajima M, Hooker S, Wittmers L, Cragin T. Exposure to acute stress is associated with attenuated sweet taste. Psychophysiology. 2012 Jan;49(1):96-103.

Nakajima M, al'Absi M. Enhanced pain perception prior to smoking cessation is associated with early relapse. Biol Psychol. 2011 Sep;88(1):141-6.

Kotlyar M, Drone D, Thuras P, Hatsukami DK, Brauer L, Adson DE, al'Absi M. Effect of stress and bupropion on craving, withdrawal symptoms, and mood in smokers. Nicotine Tob Res. 2011 Jun;13(6):492-7.

al'Absi M, Hooker S, Fujiwara K, Kiefer F, von der Goltz C, Cragin T, Wittmers LE. Circulating leptin levels are associated with increased craving to smoke in abstinent smokers. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 Jan;97(3):509-13.

Hoffman R, al'Absi M. Khat use and neurobehavioral functions: suggestions for future studies. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Dec 1;132(3):554-63.

Shaw D, al'Absi M. Blunted opiate modulation of prolactin response in smoking men and women. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2010 Mar;95(1):1-5.

Allen AM, Allen SS, Widenmier J, al'Absi M. Patterns of cortisol and craving by menstrual phase in women attempting to quit smoking. Addict Behav. 2009 Aug;34(8):632-5.

al'Absi M, Wittmers LE, Hatsukami D, Westra R. Blunted opiate modulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical activity in men and women who smoke. Psychosom Med. 2008 Oct;70(8):928-35.

Shaw D, al'Absi M. Attenuated beta endorphin response to acute stress is associated with smoking relapse. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2008 Sep;90(3):357-62.

Kotlyar M, al'Absi M, Brauer LH, Grant JE, Fong E, Kim SW. Naltrexone effect on physiological and subjective response to a cold pressor task. Biol Psychol. 2008 Feb;77(2):233-6.

al'Absi M, Carr SB, Bongard S. Anger and psychobiological changes during smoking abstinence and in response to acute stress: prediction of smoking relapse. Int J Psychophysiol. 2007 Nov;66(2):109-15.

al'Absi M, Bongard S. Neuroendocrine and behavioral mechanisms mediating the relationship between anger expression and cardiovascular risk: assessment considerations and improvements. J Behav Med. 2006 Dec;29(6):573-91.

Ceballos NA, al'Absi M. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, cortisol, mood state and smoking cessation: relationship to relapse status at 4-week follow-up. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006 Sep;85(1):23-8.

Kotlyar M, Brauer LH, al'Absi M, Adson DE, Robiner W, Thuras P, Harris J, Finocchi ME, Bronars CA, Candell S, Hatsukami DK. Effect of bupropion on physiological measures of stress in smokers during nicotine withdrawal. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006 Mar;83(3):370-9.

al'Absi, M. , France, C.R., France, J., Harju , Wittmers, L.E. (2006). Adrenocortical and nociceptive responses to opioid blockade in hypertension-prone men and women. Psychosomatic Medicine, 68, 292-298.

al'Absi, M. (2006). Altered psychoendocrine responses to psychological stress and smoking relapse. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 59, 218-227

al'Absi, M. , Hatsukami, D., & Davis, G. (2005). Attenuated adrenocorticotropic responses to stress predict early relapse. Psychopharmacology, 181, 107-117.

al'Absi, M , France, C.R., France, J., Harju, A., Ring, C., McIntyre, D., Wittmers , L.E. (2005) Effects of baroreflex stimulation on pain perception and nociceptive flexion reflex in men and women. Psychophysiology, 42, 83-91.