Study participant using tablet

Woodward & Mulholland Component

Basic Science Component

Chronic Alcohol Effects on Orbitofrontal Cortex Function and Projection Circuitry

Principal Investigator: John Woodward, Ph.D.
Co-Investigator: Patrick Mulholland, Ph.D.

This research component focuses on a specialized area of the prefrontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). The OFC plays an important evaluative role in integrating sensory, hedonic-valence and emotional information in formulating expectations and guiding decision-making relevant to motivated behavior.

The project uses chronic intermittent ethanol exposure (CIE-treated) mice along with tracing, optogenetic, and electrophysiological procedures to examine projection-specific changes in structure and function of OFC neurons. Studies also use pharmacosynthetic technology (i.e., excitatory and inhibitory designer receptors – DREADDs) to examine the influence of select OFC (corticostriatal) circuits in development of escalated drinking in the CIE model of alcohol dependence.

The project will test the general hypothesis that chronic alcohol exposure results in altered patterns of connectivity between the OFC, ventral tegmental area (VTA), and the dorsal striatum and ventral striatum (NAc-shell) that accompanies transition to excessive, compulsive-like alcohol consumption.