Mustafa al'Absi

Professor and Max E. and Mary LaDue Pickworth Chair
Director, Duluth Global Health Research Institute


Dr. al’Absi has established an international research program focusing on stress biological and psychophysiological effects on addictive behaviors and mental health conditions. His team has been working to elucidate biobehavioral mechanisms by which stress and early life adversity play a role in addiction and other mental health disorders, and to use this knowledge to develop and tailor interventions. His research integrates basic, laboratory, and clinical methods. His early research focused on stress mechanisms related to risk for heart disease, pioneering lab and field studies using an array of natural stressors as well as pharmacological challenges in human studies. While funded by NHLBI and AHA, he focused on defining the mechanisms of hypoalgesia and stress response alterations in hypertension. Dr. al’Absi has also focused on the significance of stress response alterations in multiple clinical conditions including addiction. An important, replicated finding from his program is the blunted hormonal stress response among individuals with stimulant addiction. This dysregulated pattern of response predicts early addiction relapse. His current research examines the role of endogenous opioids and the endocannabinoid system in the modulating the stress response. He has also examined the extent to which stress responses predict changes in dietary intake, weight, and relapse. Defining these links will inform future models for targeted treatment to address weight gain as an impediment for smoking cessation. Dr. al’Absi has been leading efforts to improve methods for assessment of stress and substance use in the field by developing innovative and unobtrusive high-tech methods to collect physiological and contextual data in natural settings using wearable sensors. The goal is to obtain continuous, real-time measures of stress and addiction and to leverage this information to apply just-in-time intervention.

Dr. al’Absi’s research program has been funded by multiple R01 grants from NIDA and NCI and by Grant-in-Aid from the American Heart Association (AHA) as well as grants from the University of Minnesota and the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO). He has also received a Smart Health and Wellbeing award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

Dr. al’Absi has been honored with several awards including the ABMR Neal E. Miller Award, the American Psychosomatic Society Herbert Weiner Award, the NIDA Award of Excellence in Collaborative Research, and the Hans Selye Lectureship from WASAD. He is currently a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Sciences, the Academy for Behavioral Medicine, the Association for Psychological Sciences (APS), and the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT). He is a former fellow of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Mind-Body Network.

Dr. al’Absi’s extensive publication record include more than 200 scientific articles, two books, and many book chapters. He has served as a guest editor for Biological Psychology and for Psychosomatic Medicine and as an Associate Editor for Biological Psychology; and he is serving as associate editor for Psychophysiology, and as an editorial board for Health Psychology, Annals for Behavioral Medicine, Journal o Neural Transmission, and other journals. He served as a standing member on the NIH “Mechanisms of Emotion, Stress, and Health” Study Section and he has served on many other NIH, VA, and NSF review panels.

Dr. al’Absi has served in several national and international leadership positions, including serving as president of the American Psychosomatic Society (APS), executive council member and chair of membership committee, Academy for Behavioral Medicine Research (ABMR), president of the Africa & Middle East Congress on Addiction (AMECA), and board member of the Society for Psychophysiological Research (SPR). He also serves on the UNODC-WHO Informal Scientific Network (ISN).

In addition to his extensive research program and his leadership positions, Dr. al’Absi is dedicated to training the next generation of physicians and scientists through his teaching and mentoring medical, graduate, and undergraduate students and postdoctoral and junior faculty members with the University of Minnesota and other institutions.

Clinical Summary

Stress & trauma; addiction; pain


PhD, University of Oklahoma Medical Center
Major: Behavioral Medicine/Psychophysiology
Selected Publications

Selected Publications

Potretzke S, Lemieux A, Nakajima M, al'Absi M, 2022. Circulating ghrelin changes as a biomarker of the stress response and craving in abstinent smokers.. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 218:173423
doi: PubMed ID: 35750154.
Bruehl S, Morris MC, al'Absi M, 2022. Stress-induced analgesia: an evaluation of effects on temporal summation of pain and the role of endogenous opioid mechanisms.. Pain Rep, 7 (2): e987.
Anker JJ, Nakajima M, Raatz S, Allen S, al'Absi M, 2021. Tobacco withdrawal increases junk food intake: The role of the endogenous opioid system. . Drug Alcohol Depend, 225 (108819):
al'Absi M, Ginty AT, Lovallo WR, 2021. Neurobiological mechanisms of early life adversity, blunted stress reactivity and risk for addiction. Neuropharmacology, 188:108519



311 SMed

Duluth, MN 55812

Administrative Contact

Katie Johnson,