Alcoholism is a chronic disorder characterized by repeated episodes of relapse to alcohol consumption. Potential precipitators of relapse include cues paired with past alcohol use. Subsequent exposure to these stimuli could induce a state of alcohol craving that results in reinstatement of alcohol us. The goals of this proposal are to determine the biological bases of how conditioned cues elicit or inhibit drug-seeking. The long- range objectives of this study are to determine the neurocircuits that regulate the modulation of EtOH-seeking by conditioned cues. The overall hypotheses are that there are two distinct systems that integrate environmental cues that promote or inhibit EtOH-seeking, and that each system is comprised of separate neurocircuits and neurotransmitter systems. These hypotheses will be tested primarily using the alcohol- preferring (P) rat, which demonstrates high alcohol drinking behavior and robust EtOH-seeking and relapse behaviors. Proposed experiments will determine the effects of environmental cues (conditioned excitation and conditioned inhibition) on the expression of context-induced seeking. Proposed experiments will determine the neurochemical consequences of exposure to conditioned cues that promote or inhibit EtOH-seeking. In addition, the proposed experiments will identify the neurotransmitter characteristics of neurons activated by presentation of cues that promote or inhibit EtOH-seeking. Further experiments will determine the effects of altering activity at candidate receptors in discrete brai regions on the ability of conditioned cues to alter EtOH- seeking. Understanding the complex factors that underlie EtOH-seeking behaviors and the ability of environmental cues to potentiate or suppress EtOH-seeking will contribute toward the development of therapeutic strategies to reduce 'craving'and alcohol relapse.
The long-range goals of this project are to better understand the biological basis of alcohol craving and how environmental cues can later alter the expression of alcohol craving. Understanding these neurocircuits of drug-seeking will assist in the development of treatment strategies to reduce alcohol drinking and prevent relapse.
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