President's Report Masthead
September 30, 2014
NIH funds Binghamton’s alcohol research center

Jonathan Cohen
Linda Spear, distinguished professor of psychology, is the principal investigator on an $8.2 million grant awarded to the Developmental Exposure Alcohol Research Center, supporting alcohol research.

NIH funds Binghamton’s alcohol research center

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a five-year, $8.2 million grant to support an alcohol research center led by Binghamton University.

The grant is a renewal of a five-year, $8.5 million grant awarded to the Developmental Exposure Alcohol Research Center (DEARC) in 2010. The grant will help fund research on the effects of developmental exposure to alcohol, focusing on the two primary times when the developing brain is exposed to alcohol — prenatally, via maternal use of alcohol, and during adolescence, when kids begin using alcohol themselves.

“What we’re really interested in is what happens with a double-hit,” said Linda Spear, scientific director of the DEARC and principal investigator of the grant. “We’re worried about this kind of vicious cycle that starts when kids are exposed to alcohol prenatally, making them more likely to use alcohol and initiate use early in adolescence, with that in turn increasing the probability of developing an alcohol use disorder in adulthood. Using a variety of models in basic research, we’re examining consequences of separate and combined exposures at both critical developmental stages and how that contributes to a cycle of disruptive alcohol use over generations.”

The DEARC’s goal is to develop strategies for disrupting this cycle — to reduce the probability that kids who are exposed to alcohol prenatally would be more likely to use alcohol as adolescents, and to work on strategies for prevention and reversal of effects induced by adolescent alcohol exposure.

“Professor Spear’s research on alcohol and alcohol abuse is important, timely and it addresses issues that impact society on a massive scale,” President Harvey Stenger said. “Receipt of this grant enables Spear and her colleagues at the DEARC to dig even deeper into this important topic and to use this knowledge to develop possible prevention strategies.”

“The DEARC is a unique center that truly meets the spirit of collaborative and multi-disciplinary research,” said Terrence Deak, associate director of the DEARC. “Securing renewal of the DEARC will enable us to move forward with path-breaking studies on how early developmental alcohol exposure impacts long-term alcohol use and abuse for years to come.”

The DEARC is a collaborative and multidisciplinary research venture. The center is a partnership of Binghamton University, Upstate Medical University and other research institutions in upstate New York.