INDIANAPOLIS—A multi-disciplinary team of Indiana University researchers is focusing their efforts on a growing public health concern: binge and “high-intensity” drinking—extreme drinking behaviors that are increasingly prevalent among college-age adults.
The researchers, who are part of the Indiana Alcohol Research Center, recently received a five-year, $8.65 million grant renewal from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to support this work.
Established in 1987, the Indiana Alcohol Research Center (IARC) is housed at IU School of Medicine and led by director David Kareken, PhD, a professor of neurology at the school. The center’s broad mission is to study the behavioral and neurobiological risks for alcohol use disorder.
“The IARC begins its eighth consecutive funding cycle by continuing its long tradition of multi-disciplinary collaboration across animals and humans to better understand the neurobiological and behavioral risks for developing alcohol use disorder,” Kareken said. “We believe that our combined diverse methods and perspectives are best suited to studying a problem of both great importance and complexity.”
Cristine Czachowski, PhD, a professor of psychology at the School of Science at IUPUI, and Christopher Lapish, PhD, a professor of anatomy, cell biology and physiology at IU School of Medicine, serve as the center’s deputy director and scientific director, respectively.
“The center provides researchers like me—those studying rodent models of behavior—valuable interactions with colleagues (and friends) who work on the clinical side,” Czachowski said. “The crosstalk between disciplines, and across many departments, keeps us at the top of our game with regard to the latest findings and focused on the human experience of alcohol use disorder.”
Working as a team across basic and clinical research, center faculty will work to determine how inherited and acquired behavioral and neurobiological vulnerabilities predispose people to more intense patterns of drinking, with a particular emphasis on factors that lead to faster initial rates of drinking and a proclivity for sustained high intake.
“Our ability to measure how brain function is altered in alcohol use disorder is rapidly improving,” Lapish said. “This is true for humans and rodent models of the disorder. Our hope is that we can find similarities across the species, which, in turn, will facilitate new treatments.”
The researchers will also work with the community, schools, health care providers and state policy makers in providing education about the science, prevention, and treatment of alcohol use disorder.
This funding renewal is the Indiana Alcohol Research Center’s eighth consecutive five-year grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism since its founding. Over the past three decades, center researchers and their collaborators have played key roles in studying alcohol use disorder heritability—showing differing genetic and environmental influences across the disorder’s developmental timeline.
Their animal and human research models are also used worldwide in alcohol-related research. Center researchers conceived, and continue to refine, the “Computer-assisted Alcohol Infusion System,” an intravenous alcohol administration research method that permits exquisite experimental control over an individual’s level of alcohol exposure—a technique employed in human research laboratories around the world. The center’s animals—rats and mice selectively bred by the IARC to prefer alcohol—are similarly used throughout the world to help understand inherited risk.
Other Indiana Alcohol Research Center project and core resource leaders include IU School of Medicine’s Martin Plawecki, MD, PhD; Frederic (Woody) Hopf, PhD; Tamika Zapolski, PhD; and Karmen Yoder, PhD; and the IUPUI School of Science’s Marian Logrip, PhD; Nicholas Grahame, PhD; Melissa Cyders, PhD; and Stephen Boehm, PhD. Collaborating scientists include researchers at IU School of Medicine, the School of Science at IUPUI, the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, and Purdue University.
About IU School of Medicine
IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.