NIAAA steps up search for brain mechanisms of alcohol abuse, alcoholism

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism announces a 5-year initiative funded at approximately $50 million to define the brain circuits and mechanisms that underlie behavioral responses to chronic and excessive alcohol consumption. The multidisciplinary Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism (INIA) will integrate research knowledge from animal and human studies and multiple analytic approaches to understand the behavioral neuroadaptive processchanges in the brain that occur with chronic alcohol exposure that contribute to excessive drinking.

"Neuroadaptation produces a variety of behavioral responses implicated in the disorders alcohol abuse (a harmful drinking pattern that does not entail addiction) and alcohol dependence or addiction, commonly known as alcoholism," said NIAAA Acting Director Raynard Kington, M.D., Ph.D. "In particular, INIA seeks to clarify the mechanisms of reinforcement, tolerance, and sensitization that drive compulsive drinking, and the withdrawal and relapse that complicate successful treatment. As with all alcohol research, INIA has as its ultimate goal improved treatment and preventive interventions."

Researchers are making rapid progress toward understanding brain responses to chronic drinking. However, much of this work is conducted as independent projects that use different analytic approaches, experimental designs, and animal models. The result is that comparing and integrating accumulated data can be difficult. INIA will complement these independent experimental findings and stimulate progress to understand reinforcement (the rewarding effects of drinking alcohol that evoke repeated use), tolerance (the need for increasing amounts of alcohol to produce a desired effect), sensitization (increased response to alcohol after repeated intermittent exposures), withdrawal (negative symptoms occurring with abrupt discontinuation of chronic alcohol consumption), and relapse (resumption of heavy drinkin

Contact: Ann Bradley
NIH/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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