LSU Health New Orleans has been awarded a $1.85 million grant over five years by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to study the brain changes that may underlie excessive alcohol drinking associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. The researchers will use male and female rodents to investigate how individual differences in the stress response of specific brain circuits to traumatic stress affect the escalation of alcohol drinking after stress. The results of these studies could lead to treatments to improve mental health in a vulnerable population.
“Men and women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to develop alcohol use disorder than the general population,” noted Principal Investigator Nicholas Gilpin, PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology, Associate Director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center of Excellence at LSU Health New Orleans. “Alcohol Use Disorder is the most commonly co-occurring mental health disorder in people with PTSD. These conditions, separately and combined, affect millions of American, cause millions of deaths worldwide and cost society billions of dollars. The underlying cause for excessive alcohol drinking by individuals with PTSD is not understood.”
The research will use diverse neuroscience techniques combined with brain and behavior analyses to systematically test the effect of traumatic stress on escalation of alcohol drinking and to identify the neurobiological processes involved.
“Our ultimate goal is to identify neurobiological targets for potential treatment of alcohol abuse in PTSD patients,” said Dr. Gilpin.
Other members of the research team include Dr. Jeffrey Tasker, Tulane University Professor of Neuroscience, and Dr. Scott Edwards, Assistant Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.