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). The research focus includes mechanisms behind changes in the brain that result from excessive alcohol use and are associated with the development of AUD, brain changes that result in excessive use that is then correlated with AUD, and also 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 will integrate analysis at the molecular, cellular, extracellular, synaptic, physiological and behavioral level. INIA has also helped to define factors that contribute to an individual’s risk for the development of AUD and has identified novel targets for therapeutic intervention including medications. The linked set of FOAs will support two consortia each comprised of an administrative core, multiple component projects (this FOA) and relevant scientific resource cores as needed.
Applications for administrative-coordinating resource cores and research-resource cores will be funded under the U24 mechanism (please see companion RFA AA-20-011 for submission of administrative core applications and companion RFA-AA-20-012 for submission of resource-related core applications).
INIA provides a foundation for addressing emerging NIAAA research priorities. 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 the diversity of AUD among affected individuals and generate new therapeutic targets. The INIA initiative is an avenue for applying emerging neuroscience research capabilities derived from BRAIN and other sources toward understanding the neurobiology of AUD.
The aim of the proposed initiative is to support two consortia to advance integrative research efforts on novel mechanism-focused hypotheses pertaining to the development and remediation of excessive drinking associated with AUD. Potential themes could include current research gaps such as negative affect (e.g., anxiety, hyperkatifeia, emotional pain, dysphoria) and cognitive control dysfunction (e.g., impulse control) 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. In addition to complying with NIH’s Sex as a Biological Variable policy, investigators are encouraged to examine mechanisms underlying sex differences in AUD related measures. Further, capitalizing on technological advances from BRAIN and from other sources in examining brain microcircuitry, functional interactions between neurons and surrounding specific cell types and structure, and microbiome influences on brain function represent additional research considerations for understanding excessive alcohol drinking.
Research shows that diverse teams working together and capitalizing on innovative ideas and distinct perspectives outperform homogenous teams. Scientists and trainees from diverse backgrounds and life experiences bring different perspectives, creativity, and individual enterprise to address complex scientific problems. Diverse teams of scientists will lead the way to develop more innovative inclusive research that will more broadly enhance the public health. Fostering diversity by addressing underrepresentation in the scientific research workforce is a key component of the NIH strategy to identify, develop, support and maintain the quality of our scientific workforce. Therefore, applicants are strongly encouraged to include as research staff and key contributors, investigators who are underrepresented in biomedical research including individuals of diverse racial/ethnic, gender, rural and low income backgrounds.
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