Besheer Research Team



Back Row (Left to Right): : Ben Weinberg, Jacob Dooley, Brayden Fortino, Viren Makhijani, Patrick Randall, Dennis Lovelock

Front Row (Left to Right): Sarah Langston, Abigail Garcia-Baza, Joyce Besheer, Laura Ornelas, Kalynn Van Voorhies


One of the focuses of the Besheer Lab is to understand the neurobiology underlying the subjective/interoceptive effects of alcohol, nicotine, and alcohol drinking and relapse. In particular we are interested in understanding how prolonged/repeated elevations in the stress hormone corticosterone can impact interoceptive sensitivity to alcohol and alcohol drinking and relapse, with a focus on the mechanistic involvement of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs). Our work takes a multidisciplinary approach, utilizing different models of self-administration and drug discrimination, behavioral pharmacology and chemogenetic techniques, and molecular techniques to better understand the underlying neural mechanisms underlying these critical behaviors. Together, studying mechanisms involved in how stress can modulate the interoceptive effects of alcohol and alcohol reinforcement has numerous implications for the development of therapeutic interventions in alcoholism and for identifying factors that influence pathological behavioral processes in addiction, such as drug taking and relapse.

Research Interests

  • Neurobiological mechanisms and circuitry underlying sensitivity to the interoceptive/subjective effects of alcohol, nicotine and combined alcohol and nicotine, and underlying sex differences.
  • Neurobiological mechanisms and circuitry underlying and alcohol self-administration and relapse-like behavior, and underlying sex differences..
  • Understanding how conditioned alcohol or nicotine interoceptive cues can drive relapse.
  • Understanding the impact of stress-related systems on the interoceptive effects of alcohol and alcohol self-administration and relapse.
  • Identifying the functional involvement of brain regional mGluR systems in modulating blunted sensitivity to alcohol and increased alcohol drinking and relapse following stress exposure.
  • Examining mGluR-related mechanisms modulating depressive-like behavior that emerges following stress exposure.

Research contributions:

  • Insular cortex and rhomboid thalamic nucleus modulate interoceptive sensitivity to alcohol.
  • Sensitivity the interoceptive effects of alcohol and nicotine combined is potentiated by treatment with the smoking cessation aid varenicline.
  • Escalated alcohol self-administration following and decreased sensitivity to the interoceptive of alcohol following exposure to the stress hormone corticosterone.
  • mGluR2/3 and mGluR5 implicated in modulating expression of the interoceptive effects of alcohol following stress hormone exposure.