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Although alcohol abuse and alcoholism are significant health problems in our society, our understanding of the neurobiological actions of alcohol in the central nervous system remains incomplete. The overall goal of our research continues to be the expansion of knowledge of the neuroanatomical basis of the effects of alcohol using neuroimaging methods. During the past funding period we have demonstrated that the neuroanatomical circuits activated by the administration of alcohol are dependent on the dose of alcohol, as well as the length of time since ingestion. In addition, we have identified a circuit comprised mainly portions of the mesocorticolimbic system that mediates the effects of alcohol self-administration. The purpose of the studies proposed here is to build on this work, thereby extending our understanding specifically of the neural substrates of alcohol self-administration. Using the quantitative auto-radiographic 2- [14C]deoxyglucose method, our studies will, first, identify the role of the dose of alcohol in determining the characteristics of the circuitry underlying self-administration. Second, changes in the pattern of functional activation that result from a longer post-ingestion intervals after self-administration will be determined. A third goal of these studies is to identify the neuroanatomical substrates of the anticipatory response to alcohol. Metabolic mapping will be applied to rats in the presence of cues that predict the availability of alcohol. The final goal of these studies to determine the circuits through which dopamine is involved in the voluntary ingestion of alcohol. The studies proposed in the present application focus on the definition of the neural circuitry that mediates various aspects of the alcohol self-administration by combining neuroimaging methods with well-controlled behavioral paradigms in order to further our understanding of the effects of alcohol in behaviorally relevant contexts.
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