Chronic drinking may alter the brain and increase PTSD risk

2012

Challenge

While alcoholism and anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are often seen together, few studies have explored how chronic alcohol exposure can affect recovery from a traumatic experience.

Advance

IRP researcher Andrew Holmes, Ph.D., and colleagues used an animal model to determine that chronic alcohol exposure remodels the brain’s neuronal wiring, impairing the ability to suppress fear and recover normally from a traumatic experience.

Impact

The results show that chronic drinking rewires brain circuitry, which may increase susceptibility for anxiety disorders like PTSD. These findings provide a basis for the development of neurochemical therapies that target these specific areas of the brain with an aim to restoring normal functions.

Publications

Holmes A, Fitzgerald PJ, MacPherson KP, DeBrouse L, Colacicco G, Flynn SM, Masneuf S, Pleil KE, Li C, Marcinkiewcz CA, Kash TL, Gunduz-Cinar O, Camp M. (2012). Chronic alcohol remodels prefrontal neurons and disrupts NMDAR-mediated fear extinction encoding. Nat Neurosci. 15(10), 1359-61.