Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a chronic and disabling disorder with currently limited effective treatments. Its severity and functional impairment is compounded by frequently comorbid alcohol use disorder (AUD), which also has limited effective treatments in isolation or in combination with PTSD. Alcohol use can be considered within the broader framework of emotion dysregulation in PTSD, as it is often pursued initially as an (often maladaptive) way to cope with distressing emotions. When alcohol use is prolonged and excessive, alcohol dependence can ensue, manifesting in substantially greater functional impairment and deficiency of prefrontal function and emotion regulation. Together, these lines of evidence suggest that: a) reduced ability to regulate excessive negative affect presents a primary vulnerability factor for alcohol use in PTSD+AUD; and b) individual differences in prefrontal-amygdala neural circuit interactions may be important predictors and/or mechanistic determinants of outcomes for PTSD + AUD treatments. As such, there is a pressing clinical need to advance the treatment of PTSD+AUD, which is most efficiently accomplished by understanding who responds best to a given treatment and what are the mechanisms by which that treatment works. Here we propose to answer these questions using a sophisticated moderation/mediation framework and multi-modal human brain circuit functional assessments in the context of a randomized clinical trial comparing the treatment of PTSD+AUD with topiramate versus placebo. Evidence exists for the utility of topiramate, which facilitates inhibitory ?-amino-butyric acid (GABA) signaling and antagonizes excitatory glutamatergric signaling, in the treatment of AUD, with initial evidence of utility for PTSD+AUD, making it a promising target for neuromechanistic study. Therefore, at the heart of our approach is a thorough cognitive neuroscience assessment of emotional reactivity and regulation to general negative stimuli and reactivity to alcohol cues more specifically (using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)). This is complemented by a cutting- edge mapping of the same brain circuits at the neurophysiological level using concurrent transcranial magnetic stimulation and EEG (TMS/EEG). Given the pharmacological action of topiramate, concurrent TMS/EEG is an ideal tool for direct interrogation of its neurophysiological actions. This is because TMS/EEG indexes distinct excitation-related and inhibition-related neurophysiological responses to brain circuit-targeted targeted neurostimulation, with EEG responses source-localized to the specific cortical structures investigated by the fMRI tasks above and investigated at a neuronal temporal scale.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Program Projects (P01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAA1)
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New York University
New York
United States
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