Mustafa al`Absi, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Behavioral Sciences - UMD

E-mail: [email protected]


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.

Selected Publications:

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

  • Atlas LY, alʼAbsi M. The neuroscience of pain: Biobehavioral, developmental, and psychosocial mechanisms relevant to intervention targets. Psychosom Med. 2018;80(9):788-790.
  • Allen AM, Lundeen K, Eberly LE, Allen SS, al'Absi M, Muramoto M, Hatsukami D. Hormonal contraceptive use in smokers: Prevalence of use and associations with smoking motives. Addict Behav. 2018;77:187-192.
  • alʼAbsi M. Stress and addiction: When a robust stress response indicates resiliency. Psychosom Med. 2018;80(1):2-16.
  • al'Absi M. Stress response pathways, appetite regulation, and drug addiction. Biol Psychol. 2018;131:1-4.
  • Lemieux AM, al'Absi M. Changes in circulating peptide YY and ghrelin are associated with early smoking relapse. Biol Psychol. 2018;131:43-48.
  • Carlson SC, Allen AM, Allen SS, al'Absi M. Differences in mood and cortisol by menstrual phase during acute smoking abstinence: A within-subject comparison. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2017;25(5):338-345.
  • Raatz SK, Jahns L, Johnson LK, Scheett A, Carriquiry A, Lemieux A, Nakajima M, al'Absi M. Smokers report lower intake of key nutrients than nonsmokers, yet both fall short of meeting recommended intakes. Nutr Res. 2017;45:30-37.
  • Walls ML, Sittner KJ, Aronson BD, Forsberg AK, Whitbeck LB, al'Absi M. Stress exposure and physical, mental, and behavioral health among American Indian adults with type 2 diabetes. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Sep 16;14(9). pii: E1074.
  • al'Absi M, Lemieux A, Westra R, Allen S. Early life adversity influences stress response association with smoking relapse. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2017;234:3375-3384.
  • Conroy DE, Pincus AL, Ram N, al'Absi M. Thirsting to understand the temporal dynamics of physical activity and alcohol use. Br J Sports Med. 2017. pii: bjsports-2017-097949.
  • Maier KJ, alʼAbsi M. Toward a biopsychosocial ecology of the human microbiome, brain-gut axis, and health. Psychosom Med. 2017;79(8):947-957.
  • Nakajima M, Molla K, Belachew B, Mohammed A, Hassan A, Kroll J, al'Absi M. Khat use is associated with tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use: A cross-sectional examination in the United States. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2017;49(5):413-419.
  • Kotlyar M, Thuras P, Hatsukami DK, al'Absi M. Sex differences in physiological response to the combination of stress and smoking. Int J Psychophysiol. 2017;118:27-31.
  • Nakajima M, Jebena MG, Taha M, Tesfaye M, Gudina E, Lemieux A, Hoffman R, al'Absi M.  Correlates of khat use during pregnancy: A cross-sectional study. Addict Behav. 2017;73:178-184.
  • El Mhamdi S, Lemieux A, Bouanene I, Ben Salah A, Nakajima M, Ben Salem K, al'Absi M. Gender differences in adverse childhood experiences, collective violence, and the risk for addictive behaviors among university students in Tunisia. Prev Med. 2017 Jun;99:99-104.
  • Lemieux A, Olson L, Nakajima M, Schulberg L, al'Absi M. Life adversity is associated with smoking relapse after a quit attempt. Addict Behav. 2016 Sep;60:71-77.
  • 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;527(7578):S172-7.
  • 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;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;174:168-77.
  • 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;232:3355-3361.
  • Bongard S, Nakajima M, al'Absi M. Khat chewing and acculturation in East-African migrants living in Frankfurt am Main/Germany. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015;164:223-228.
  • al'Absi M, Lemieux A, Nakajima M, Hatsukami DK, Allen S. Circulating leptin and pain perception among tobacco-dependent individuals. Biol Psychol. 2015;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;17:382-389.
  • Allen AM, Lunos S, Heishman SJ, al'Absi M, Hatsukami D, Allen SS. Subjective response to nicotine by menstrual phase. Addict Behav. 2015;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;160:78-85.
  • 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;41:148-151.
  • 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;23(1):22-28.
  • al'Absi M, Lemieux A, Nakajima M. Peptide YY and ghrelin predict craving and risk for relapse in abstinent smokers. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014;49:25325-9.
  • 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;51:1015-1022.
  • 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;155(3):1467-1472.
  • 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;47:232-240.
  • 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;39:1197-204.
  • 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;29(4):307-315.
  • 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;39(5):901-906.
  • 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;16(3):279-287.
  • 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 ehere yet? Feasibility of continuous stress assessment via wireless physiological sensors. ACM BCB. 2014;2014:479-488.
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