Study participant using tablet

Research Components

The major tenet of research conducted in the Charleston ARC is that progression through various stages of the addiction process involves adaptations in frontal cortical areas and their projections to subcortical regions in the brain, including basal ganglia/striatal, thalamic, and limbic structures. Further, these changes play a significant role in mediating transition from moderate, regulated alcohol consumption to excessive intake that reflects loss of control and compulsive-like drinking.

Chronic alcohol-induced adaptations in these cortico-limbic-striatal circuits and networks manifest as enhanced motivational salience for alcohol, blunted flexibility in engaging alternative behavioral choices, reduced capacity for cognitive/behavioral control over drinking, and favoring a bias toward inflexible behavioral patterns that reflect compulsive, habit-like alcohol-seeking and drinking.

Our research, reflecting multidisciplinary, integrative, and translational approaches, utilizes state-of-the-art experimental techniques in addressing a common research focus and overall theme of the ARC. Basic science projects are investigating neurocircuitry adaptations and their behavioral sequelae that reflect characteristics of excessive drinking in alcohol dependent animals while the clinical research projects are targeting specific cortical systems and mechanisms to examine whether new treatment approaches might disrupt these circuits and lead to reduced, better controlled drinking.