Phone: (919) 843-9478
B.S., Psychology, Indiana University
M.S., Biopsychology, University of Nebraska
Ph.D., Biopsychology, University of Nebraska
Postdoctoral Training, Behavioral Pharmacology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Dr. Besheer’s research interests include studying the neurobiological mechanisms underlying alcoholism and addiction. Her major area of interest is the neurobiology of the interoceptive/subjective effects of alcohol and alcohol reinforcement. For example, all drugs of abuse share the common attribute that they produce distinct interoceptive effects in humans (e.g., the feeling of “drunkenness” or lightheadedness that accompanies alcohol drinking). These interoceptive effects can drive drug taking behavior and promote relapse. Many individuals experience escalated alcohol drinking during stressful episodes, and this maladaptive pattern of drinking increases the risk for future alcohol use disorders. Therefore, one of the goals of her preclinical work is on understanding how prolonged/repeated elevations in the stress hormone corticosterone can impact sensitivity to the interoceptive effects of alcohol and how this, in turn, can affect alcohol drinking, with a focus on the mechanistic involvement of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs). Relatedly, she is also interested in the role of mGluRs in modulating the depressive-like profile that emerges following repeated exposure to the stress hormone. Additional focus is on the neurobiological differences modulating adolescent sensitivity to the interoceptive effects of alcohol relative to adults. The goal of this work is to better understand factors that can influence excessive alcohol drinking in adolescents. Her work takes a multidisciplinary approach, utilizing models of self-administration and drug discrimination, behavioral pharmacology and molecular techniques. Together, studying the underlying mechanisms of these critical behaviors has numerous implications for the development of therapeutic interventions in alcoholism and for identifying factors that influence pathological behavioral processes, such as excessive drinking and relapse.