Headshot of David Lydon-Staley with blonde hair, glasses, and white shirt with colorful graphics.

David Lydon-Staley, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Pennsylvania


My research examines substance use and abuse throughout the lifespan, with a particular focus on adolescent cigarette-smoking. Nested within a developmental systems framework, my work examines the causes and consequences of substance use at multiple levels of analysis (brain, behavior, social), multiple timescales (seconds, days, years), and within its developmental trajectory (pre-initiation, uptake, and dependence). I am particularly interested in how short-term variability (on the daily or even finer timescales) in affective and cognitive functioning (in particular incentive processing and cognitive control) renders individuals more likely to initiate drug use, transition to drug dependence, and relapse during drug abstinence and in identifying the sources of this variability in order to inform interventions.

While the majority of my research to date has focused on substance use, many of the characteristics that act as risk-factors for substance use can also be adaptive in other contexts. As such, I am increasingly interested in studying pathways to health and well-being alongside substance use. In this vein, I am using intensive longitudinal and network science methodologies to understand curiosity as a knowledge network building practice with Dr. Danielle Bassett and Dr. Perry Zurn.

Dr. Lydon-Staley graduated with his PhD in HDFS from Penn State in 2018. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Danielle Bassett's Complex Systems Group in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania.