Yale's Center for the Translational Neuroscience of Alcoholism (CTNA) Receives $10 million NIAAA Grant Renewal
11/01/2011: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has awarded $10 million to Yale University to continue funding the Center for the Translational Neuroscience of Alcoholism (CTNA), which was established in 2001. The NIAAA grant renewal will allow the CTNA to continue its mission for another five years.
Led by Dr. John Krystal, Robert L. McNeil Jr. Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Dr. Stephanie O’Malley, head of the Division of Substance Abuse Research and Professor of Psychiatry at Yale, CTNA is one of several NIAAA centers established nationwide investigating the causes, diagnosis, treatment, control, prevention, and consequences of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. "CTNA is specifically focused on understanding and treating alcoholism from a translational neuroscience perspective – which involves utilizing basic neuroscience findings to understand and treat alcoholism" explained Dr. Krystal. As such, CTNA conducts groundbreaking research, using an array of cutting-edge techniques to provide new insights and bridge the gap between basic and clinical research. "The gap between basic research advances and new clinical insights and treatments remains an obstacle to progress in the field of alcoholism research. Bridging this divide is the enduring focus of the CTNA," said Dr. Krystal.
The Center encompasses four distinct but complementary state-of-the-art projects, which are independently spearheaded by leaders in alcoholism research at Yale. The four projects are clustered around a Clinical Core led by the Center Co-Director Dr. Stephanie O’Malley. "The synergy created by having a centralized organization allows the Center to recruit hundreds of study participants and efficiently combine efforts across studies and investigators," said Dr. O’Malley. One of the key challenges in clinical research is identifying risks for developing mental illness. "The unique advantage of such a cohesive and collaborative model is that each investigator's clinical findings can inform other projects which will help us understand risk for alcoholism," added Dr. O'Malley.
True to its translational mission, CTNA will harness the ability to investigate relationships between clinical findings and genes, which may confer or otherwise modify risk for alcoholism. To that end, a major arm of the Center involves the Genetics Core led by Dr. Joel Gelernter, Foundations’ Fund Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Genetics and of Neurobiology at Yale. "Genetic factors are an important component of alcohol dependence risk. By studying genetic variants associated with traits measured in CTNA projects, we hope to gain insight into some of the mechanisms behind gene action in alcohol dependence," said Dr. Gelernter.
As noted, four distinct, but complementary, projects are affiliated with the center, each of which explores different aspects of alcoholism risk and treatment. An investigation led by Dr. Jane Taylor, Charles B. G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Psychology at Yale, will utilize animal models and cutting-edge research in basic neuroscience to identify new targets for treatment of heavy drinking or alcoholism.
The second project, a multi-year collaboration between Yale and Columbia University led by Dr. Anissa Abi-Dargham, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia and Dr. Ismene Petrakis, Professor of Psychiatry at Yale, extends a prior study of dopamine transmission to a population at high risk for alcoholism. These efforts could lead to developing a biomarker for identifying at-risk subjects and possibly designing specific therapeutic strategies for prevention.
The third project is led by Dr. Godfrey Pearlson, Professor of Psychiatry and of Neurobiology at Yale. Dr. Pearlson’s team will use state-of-the-art neuroimaging techniques to clarify the neurobiology of various forms of impulsivity and disordered reward mechanisms seen in individuals at risk for alcoholism.
Dr. Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Yale is the lead investigator on a fourth project within the CTNA designed to test the efficacy of combining two medications, naltrexone and memantine, in reducing alcohol drinking and alcohol reward.
The CTNA also emphasizes the training and advancement of young investigators. For this purpose the CTNA has implemented a Pilot Project Core led by Dr. Krystal. "The Pilot Projects Core provides a mechanism to provide a limited amount of funding to investigators to collect pilot data for innovative research projects." As a result, the Pilot Core adds critical value to the overall CTNA missions to provide a scientific foundation for novel prevention and treatment strategies.