Alcohol use disorder (AUD) remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. and is a major comorbid factor in numerous medical and psychiatric disorders, including HIV infection. AUD is associated with accelerated aging and may contribute to Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) .
Despite its high prevalence, societal and personal cost, and untoward effects on cognitive, motor, and emotional abilities, neural substrates of lasting effects of alcohol use disorder on the brain and its functions are only now unfolding. The focus of our research program is to determine the influence of alcohol-related neuropathology on neural structure and connectivity, factors that influence degradation, and options for recovery or compensation. This goal is achieved by determining the condition of network nodes with structural MRI, network connectivity with microstructural measures of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) fiber tracking, and functional connectivity with task-activated and resting-state functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) and noninvasive cerebral blood flow (CBF) methods; functional significance of compromise is established with neuropsychological testing. Parallel, in vivo animal models of alcohol exposure using high-field MRI and optogenetic approaches enable pursuit of mechanisms underlying neural disruption and opportunities for recovery. Analysis is quantitative and includes novel machine learning technology required for simultaneous analysis of complex data sets and aimed at identifying biomedical phenotypes that improve the mechanistic understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.