Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Department of Biological Sciences

Program or Major


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Sergios Charntikov


Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing brain condition that is characterized by excessive alcohol consumption, continued use when faced with negative consequences, and a negative emotional state associated with withdrawals (anxiety, irritability, depression). The main challenge to treating AUD is preventing relapse. The purpose of this study was to use a prolonged-exposure model to allow rats to self-administer ethanol to determine the brain regions active during relapse events. The rats performed multiple behavioral tests such as economic demand, negative consequences, and an elevated plus maze. These tests determined how hard rats were willing to work for an ethanol reward, how much they would persist in the face of negative consequences, and the level of anxiety-like behavior during withdrawal. These data were crossed-analyzed with neurobiological data collected from c-Fos immunoreactivity to determine a vulnerable to ethanol use endophenotype. The data were analyzed on an individual level to highlight differences associated with AUD and relapse. The preliminary results suggested that individuals with high demand for ethanol were willing to persist more in the face of negative consequences, had higher anxiety-like behavior, and were more likely to reinstate their ethanol-seeking behaviors during reinstatement. Based on this evidence, we predicted rats with higher demand would have higher rates of neural activity in areas associated with relapse. This study will provide valuable insight into the underlying mechanisms of relapse, but further clinical studies are necessary to use these phenotype-associated markers to develop a treatment plan that prevents relapse in individuals with AUD.