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UNC Hospitals – Chapel Hill

Education and Training:

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

Summary Statement:

Dr. Besheer’s research interests focus on understanding the neural mechanisms that contribute to alcohol use disorders and drug addiction. One of her areas of interest is how stress can impact alcohol drinking behavior and sensitivity to cues that are external (like environments and contexts) and internal (like interoceptive/subjective effects). Ongoing studies in her preclinical laboratory examine the lasting effects of stress on neurobiological adaptations and how these changes can impact alcohol consumption and relapse after a period of abstinence. These studies have relevance for understanding how experiencing stressful episodes or trauma can promote excessive drinking and maladaptive drinking patterns in humans. Additionally, this work also focuses on how stress impacts sensitivity to alcohol-related cues and the consequences on alcohol drinking. Mechanistically, this work examines adaptations in glutamatergic systems and cortical and limbic brain circuitry. Another area of focus is on identifying the neural circuitry that underlies sensitivity to the interoceptive effects of alcohol, nicotine and alcohol interactions, and the molecular targets of low doses of alcohol. Dr. Besheer is also involved in several collaborations examining how activation of the neuroimmune system can promote alcohol drinking, the role that neurosteroids play in regulating drinking, and studies to identify and examine potential novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of alcohol use disorders. The overall goal of Dr. Besheer’s research program is to better understand the interaction between stress, behavioral pathologies, and the underlying neuroadaptations, such that we can identify novel targets for the therapeutic treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.

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Joyce Besheer