Background, Theme & Philosophy

Background

The Medical University of South Carolina successfully competed in 1994 to 95 for an Alcohol Research Center award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Subsequently, the Center successfully competed for three additional five years of funding. This funding has provided the opportunity to conduct collaborative and interactive research, and the infrastructure to facilitate productivity. Our very first application included basic and clinical science and a philosophy of translational research long before this approach became an NIH initiative.

Since 1995, our Center has enabled experienced basic scientists to work jointly with clinical researchers. Our basic scientists use their animal models, skill sets, and ever-advancing technologies in neuroscience to conduct research that informs new treatments for alcoholism, provides information about alcohol effects on neuroadaptation, and/or helps identify potential targets for therapeutic interventions. The goal then, as now, is to provide information from the pre-clinical work that guides complementary studies in humans, and to use findings in humans to guide basic research.

Theme

The Charleston Alcohol Research Center continues to focus on treatment implications as an overarching theme embracing multidisciplinary and translational research approaches, integrating both basic research and clinical investigations - all centered on this common theme. The ARC also continues its tradition of teaming junior faculty with more experienced investigators, capitalizing on new talent and bringing sophisticated cutting-edge technologies and research approaches that enhance research efforts in addressing the Center's overall scientific goals.

Our three Research Components are tied together by either a focus on neuroadaptations that accompany the transition from controlled to uncontrolled drinking. Our basic research component uses sophisticated circuitry mapping, and cellular and molecular biology techniques to examine how chronic alcohol exposure alters the function of cortical areas, projections and networks relevant to behavioral control and motivational effects of alcohol. Two clinical research components employ sophisticated neuroimaging techniques to focus on similar cortical areas and projections in evaluating the ability of different treatment modalities (pharmacological and non-pharmacological) to alter the circuitry and reduce alcohol cue-induced brain activation, craving, and drinking.

The Research Components are also supported by two Cores. The Administrative Core provides the leadership and infrastructure to facilitate the mission of the Center as a whole. The Shared Core provides and manages common services needed by the researchers to maximize resources and increase productivity. A Pilot Project Component attracts new talent or new ideas to the Center.

Philosophy

Our Center philosophy views alcoholism as having a biological basis, with neuroanatomical, neurochemical, genetic, and behavioral underpinnings.

Alcoholism remains a major public health concern. Advances in neuroscience and genetics help to inform treatment-related research and help identify risk factors, at the behavioral as well as neurochemical level, that indicate a risk for the development of alcohol dependence. This information is useful for testing prevention as well as intervention strategies that, when transferred to clinical practice, will ultimately decrease the burden of excessive alcohol use on the individual, as well as on society.