Excessive alcohol consumption causes 95,000 fatalities in the United States every year, making it a leading cause of death. Approximately 14.5 million people, ages 12 and up, suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD), otherwise known as alcoholism or alcohol addiction. Alcohol use disorder is a chronic, relapsing brain condition that causes impaired cognitive functioning towards alcohol. While there are treatments available, the propensity for alcoholics to relapse during recovery remains a major challenge to successful treatment. Understanding the neural and behavioral mechanisms underlying relapse into alcohol abuse is a current research interest for those who are trying to improve treatment methods. In this preclinical study conducted in Dr. Charntikov’s Lab with funding from the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, we are using a rodent model to study the brain regions involved in alcohol addiction relapse. This study involves a behavioral and neurobiological component, designed using the principles of behavioral economics, to further our understanding of how the brain operates during alcohol-use relapse.
—Hannah Manning (Mentor: Sergios Charntikov)