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The Center for Translational Neuroscience of Alcoholism (CTNA) and the Yale Department of Psychiatry are pleased to announced that CTNA has been awarded $10 million from NIAAA to continue its groundbreaking research. This marks the 3rd 5-year iteration of the Center’s mission.

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.

For more information

The CTNA website


CTNA emphasizes discussion and dissemination of novel findings related to understanding and treatment of alcoholism both to CTNA members as well as the broader scientific community.


Dr. Joel Gelernter, Principal Investigator for the CTNA Genetics Core and members of his research team during a discussion.


Focus on training and career development are both major components of the CTNA. CTNA also provides funding for junior investigators to collect pilot data for innovative research projects. Dr. Philip Corlett (middle standing) discusses a plan for a pilot study involving functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with colleagues Dr. Hedy Kober (sitting left) and Dr. Alan Anticevic (sitting right).


Center Co-Directors, Dr. John Krystal and Dr. Stephanie O'Malley comment during a presentation. CTNA conducts bi-weekly meetings during which novel findings are discussed.


Treatment and prevention of alcoholism is a major focus of the CTNA via leading pharmacological interventions. Dr. Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin interviews a participant in one of her ongoing treatment studies.


Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is one of major technologies used within the CTNA to specifically understand dopamine mechanisms underlying alcoholism. CTNA PET project involves a close collaboration with Columbia University team led by Dr. Anissa Abi-Dargham.