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Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain: Neuroimaging Results in Humans and Animal Models

Brain imaging technology has allowed researchers to conduct rigorous studies of the dynamic course of alcoholism through periods of drinking, sobriety, and relapse and to gain insights into the effects of chronic alcoholism on the human brain. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have distinguished alcohol-related brain effects that are permanent from those that are reversible with abstinence...

Utilization of Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Research Involving Animal Models of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Neuroimaging, particularly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), has begun to tease apart the underlying mechanisms behind alcohol’s deleterious effects on the fetus and eventually may lead to earlier detection of what can be devastating child neurodevelopmental deficits. In 1968, researchers first reported an association between prenatal alcohol exposure and what can be persistent adverse cognitive...

Translating Alcohol Research: Opportunities and Challenges

More than 20 years ago, Daniel Koshland compared basic with applied research, stating: “Basic research is the type that is not always practical but often leads to great discoveries. Applied research refines these discoveries into useful products” (Koshland 1993). This statement implies that basic science does not have a direct impact on human health and disease or patient outcome but offers the...

Translating Alcohol Research Into Practice - Editor's Note

Translational research helps move basic science and clinical laboratory discoveries toward application in health and medicine. Through controlled experiments, basic scientists use animal models to reproduce disease characteristics caused by an agent—in this case, excessively high exposure to alcohol. Through systematic study and observation, clinical research scientists identify symptomatic and...

Common Biological Mechanisms of Alcohol Use Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are highly comorbid. Although recent clinical studies provide some understanding of biological and subsequent behavioral changes that define each of these disorders, the neurobiological basis of interactions between PTSD and AUD has not been well-understood. In this review, we summarize the relevant animal models that parallel...

Neuroplasticity and Predictors of Alcohol Recovery

Recovery from alcoholism is a complex and long-term process with high relapse rates. Therefore, understanding why people relapse has been critically important to improving treatment outcomes. To that end, researchers are looking for clinical and biological markers that predict relapse after treatment and to use those risk factors to develop effective treatments to reduce relapse rates. One...

Alcohol and Cannabis Use and the Developing Brain

Introduction

Adolescence is marked by significant social, emotional, cognitive, and physical changes, as individuals transition from childhood to adulthood. Although the exact definition of adolescence tends to vary, recent findings regarding adolescent development and growth include individuals between the ages of 10 and 24.1 Consistent with this defined age range, the human brain continues to...

Advances in Human Neuroconnectivity Research: Applications for Understanding Familial History Risk for Alcoholism

Advances in human neuroimaging have expanded our ability to understand the functioning of the brain, with particular recent advances fostering our analytic capacity to examine networks between the brain’s nerve cells (i.e., neurons) and neuroconnectivity (i.e., neural networks). Relevant to the field of alcoholism, several researchers recently have applied these strategies to groups at genetic...

Alcohol and the Adolescent Brain: What We’ve Learned and Where the Data Are Taking Us

Introduction

The past 50 years of research supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have resulted in an accumulation of invaluable data to address the multifaceted problems surrounding underage drinking. Youth use of alcohol remains a pervasive social and public health concern in the United States and a leading cause of disability and mortality during...

Effects of Binge Drinking on the Developing Brain

Binge drinking is a pattern of alcohol drinking that raises a person’s blood alcohol concentration to at least .08%, which amounts to consuming five alcoholic drinks for men and four alcoholic drinks for women in about 2 hours. It is the most common form of alcohol misuse in adolescents and young adults. Heavy drinking includes the same criterion as binge drinking, but with higher frequency (i.e...