Mark Egli, Ph.D.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) seeks to continue the Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism (INIA), a translational, multidisciplinary, collaborative research effort studying brain mechanisms of excessive alcohol drinking associated with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and the relationship between excessive drinking, stress, and anxiety. The primary goal of INIA is to identify brain adaptations at multiple levels of analysis that result in excessive alcohol consumption. Each consortium supported under this initiative integrates analysis at the molecular, cellular, synaptic, physiological and behavioral level of analysis. INIA has supported gene expression studies which revealed novel gene pathways contributing to excessive drinking. Through such efforts, INIA has helped to define factors that contribute to an individual's risk for the development of AUD, established a causal role for neurobiological targets in promoting excessive and harmful drinking, and has identified novel targets for therapeutic intervention including medication development.
The aim of the proposed initiative is to support two consortia to further integrative research efforts on novel mechanism-focused hypotheses pertaining to the development and remediation of excessive drinking associated with AUD. The focus should be on gaps in the field which include emotional and cognitive characteristics such as negative affect (e.g., hyperkatifeia-anxiety, emotional pain, dysphoria, etc.), and cognitive control dysfunction contributing to addiction. In addition, we encourage research addressing hypotheses exploring interactions between alcohol and other relevant causal influences on the development of AUD pathology such as trauma, pain conditions and social isolation. Both consortiums supported under this initiative will be expected to collaborate with one another through joint meetings and resource sharing.
Each consortium should be organized around a central theme, with individual projects addressing a targeted subset of objectives. Projects should not only be relevant to the overall consortium theme, but also contribute data and analyses that are used by other consortium components to address hypotheses which integrate different levels of analysis or mechanistically related manifestations of AUD.
Technologies exploring spatial and temporal resolution of brain function measures are currently being advanced by the NIH Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies [BRAIN] initiative and methods to measure behavior from previously inaccessible sources and with greater temporal resolution are emerging. Artificial intelligence tools and methods are also emerging which will expand analytical capabilities in alcohol research. These new technologies and paradigms provide opportunities for researchers to investigate diversity of AUD among affected individuals and generate new therapeutic targets. The INIA initiative is an avenue to apply emerging neuroscience research capabilities toward the investigation of priority research questions pertaining to the neurobiology of AUD.
Each INIA consortium will include one administrative unit (U24) led by the Consortium Coordinator and a cluster of cooperative agreement research projects (U01s). Each consortium may also include research resources (U24) to provide service to individual research projects as needed. The research projects (U01s) affiliated with a given consortium will focus on the common theme of on brain mechanisms of AUD. The use of common methodology among various research projects and sharing of technical expertise is highly desirable. The Administrative Resource will provide oversight, coordination, and direction to the consortium. It will be responsible for managing the Scientific Advisory Board and the research Steering Committee. It will coordinate use of resources among the research projects, facilitate communications among the PD(s)/PI(s), and facilitate data collection. The cooperative agreement mechanism requires the appointment of an NIH Project Scientist, who will have substantial involvement above and beyond the normal program stewardship of the award. The NIH Project Scientist is a partner within the research team representing the government's interest in the substantive work of the research team with specific responsibilities.