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The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has awarded a $1.9 million, 5-year grant to Joyce Besheer, PhD, of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, to study the underlying neuropathy of post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol abuse.

Besheers receives NIH grant to study brain circuits affected by PTSD and alcohol use click to enlarge Joyce Besheer, PhD

Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating and enduring disorder that develops in some individuals following intense trauma. It is also associated with problem drinking and alcohol use disorder. Joyce Besheer, PhD, of UNC’s Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, has been awarded a $1.9 million, 5-year NIH grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to study the interaction between PTSD and alcohol abuse.

“Alcohol and stress share the brain circuitry that contributes to the co-occurrence of these disorders,” Besheer said. “But, how brain circuitry changes in PTSD to increase the risk of alcohol use disorder is not well understood.”

Besheer and her team have been using existing animal models of PTSD to examine how exposure to stressful events can produce long-lasting behavioral and neurocircuitry changes that mimic PTSD symptom clusters, and how these symptoms may contribute to increased alcohol use.

“Initially, we will determine which PTSD-like behavioral characteristics are predictive of escalated drinking patterns. From there we will examine adaptations in the circuitry of areas of the brain involved in emotional memory and cognition that may drive escalations in alcohol use,” Besheer said.

Ultimately, the goal of this project is to provide a better understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying how PTSD can lead to alcohol use disorders, in the hope that this understanding will lead to new therapeutic options