Crowley receives NARSAD Young Investigator Award for work on the neurobiology of binge drinking

Nikki Crowley, assistant research professor of biobehavioral health, has received the NARSAD Young Investigator Award from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. This award will support her work on the neurobiological underpinnings of alcohol misuse and comorbid neuropsychiatric disorders.

“Alcohol misuse remains one of the largest causes of death and costs the United States over $249 billion a year in lost workplace productivity as well as increased health care expenditures, such as criminal justice costs,” said Crowley, “Yet, despite binge drinking being responsible for over 70 percent of these costs, we actually have a relatively limited understanding of the underlying neuronal types that contribute to binge drinking and their potential as therapeutic targets.”

Crowley’s work sits at the intersection of electrophysiology, systems neuroscience and behavior. Broadly, she studies the cellular basis of alcohol addiction and its comorbidity with neuropsychiatric disorders—between sexes and across the lifespan. Using various techniques, Crowley’s laboratory investigates the brain’s circuitry and pathways implicated in alcohol misuse and focuses extensively in the neurobiological changes following stress and alcohol exposure, particularly in the prefrontal cortex.

As part of this award, Crowley will seek to extend this work by identifying how somatostatin-expressing GABAergic interneurons in the prefrontal cortex contribute to binge drinking and identify potential opportunities for intervention. “This work will expand our understanding of the role of specific neuronal types in binge drinking, inform novel therapies, and increase our understanding of the neurobiological mechanism by which binge drinking transitions to problematic addiction,” said Dr. Crowley.

Crowley’s work has been published in "Cell Reports, Neuron, Nature Neuroscience", and "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science" and has received funding from the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, as well as Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute. More on Crowley’s work and lab can be found here.

The NARSAD Young Investigator Grant provides support for the most promising young scientists conducting neurobiological research, enabling promising investigators to either extend research fellowship training or begin careers as independent research faculty. The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation focuses on social and behavioral neuroscience and is committed to alleviate the suffering caused by mental illness by awarding scientific research grants that enable people to live healthy and productive lives.

The work for which Crowley was recognized was supported in part by a grant from the Social Science Research Institute.