The Developmental Exposure Alcohol Research Center (DEARC) is a successful, rapidly evolving alcohol research center that has been funded by NIAAA since 2009. The DEARC is an integrative, multidisciplinary center located at Binghamton University, one of four University Centers within the State University of New York (SUNY) system. The DEARC is unique in its focus on basic research to examine functional effects and neural consequences of ethanol exposure throughout extended periods of central nervous system development - inquiries that are of particular importance given the increasing recognition that alcoholism is a disorder with strong roots in development. Through the use of integrative research teams with broad interdisciplinary expertise and experience, the DEARC is distinctively positioned to focus its research efforts on determining the interactions between neurodevelopmental processes and alcohol, with a particular focus on two key points in development when the immature nervous system is particularly likely to be exposed to alcohol: prenatally through maternal alcohol consumption and during adolescence, when many youth first initiate alcohol use. The DEARC will include four Main research components that use established rodent models and integrative cellular, molecular, genomic, neuroanatomical, physiological and behavioral studies to explore functional and neural consequences of developmental exposures to alcohol. Projects also include an emphasis on sex-specific neurobehavioral processes, such as social context and anxiety, that promote alcohol consumption during adolescence. Pilot projects will be vetted and supported by a Pilot Project Core designed to further strengthen the DEARC while encouraging the development of new alcohol researchers. Critical support for all projects is provided by thea Behavioral Resources, Analysis and Integative Neuroscience (BRAIN) Core to support and integrate projects with genomic, molecular, and neuroanatomical expertise. Management, oversight and coordination of scientific effort is provided by an Administrative Core. The over-arching theme for these projects is that exposure of the developing nervous system to alcohol alters neural development and influences later responsiveness to alcohol in ways that exacerbate the normal propensity for enhanced alcohol use during adolescence, thereby increasing the probability of alcohol use and abuse in adulthood.
OVERALL COMPONENT Exposure of the developing nervous system to alcohol is most likely to occur during two crucial periods: prenatally through alcohol use during pregnancy and during adolescence when alcohol use becomes normative and per occasion alcohol consumption often exceeds that of adults. Using established rodent models, the research of the Developmental Exposure Alcohol Research Center (DEARC) assesses functional and neural consequences of alcohol exposure, as well as unique neurodevelopmental features of adolescence that promote excessive alcohol intake. The work of the Center is of particular importance given increasing recognition that alcoholism has its roots in development, and will contribute significantly to our understanding of the biological basis of Alcohol Use Disorders.
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