Two doctoral students in behavioral neuroscience have received prestigious NIH National Research Service Awards from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

The grant awards — each about $60,000 — will enable Siara Rouzer and Andrew Vore to support their dissertation research, fund travel, equipment and supplies, and take part in professional development.

“It’s a beautiful seal to your graduate-school career that a funding agency says: ‘You are producing good science,’” Rouzer said. “It’s not just your mentor or your department that has a clear interest, but an objective, external source.”

Rouzer, who received her undergraduate degrees in psychology and English from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., arrived at Binghamton University in 2015 and began working with Marvin Diaz. The assistant professor of psychology’s Alcohol and Development Lab focuses on understanding neurobiological, physiological and behavioral adaptations that result from exposures to alcohol and stress during development.

Rouzer’s dissertation investigates how moderate, sub-intoxicating levels of alcohol exposure during pregnancy increase the expression of anxiety behaviors in offspring, especially sons.

“Can we demonstrate that there are negative consequences from women drinking, even in moderation, during pregnancy?” she said.

Some women drink while not yet knowing that they are pregnant, she added.

“Even that early, the child is actively undergoing development,” Rouzer said. “And alcohol is impacting them.”

Vore, who received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has worked with Psychology Professor Terrence Deak since arriving on campus in 2014. Deak’s Stress, Alcohol and Aging Lab aims to better understand the consequences of early-life stress and alcohol exposure.

Vore’s dissertation looks at the long-term consequences of adolescent alcohol consumption with a specific focus on binge patterns of drinking. He is examining whether individuals with a history of binge consumption display different “blood-brain barrier permeability.”

“The blood-brain barrier is one of the gatekeepers to the brain — and even relatively small changes in what can access the brain could have large consequences on general health,” he added. (Read more…)