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Do I drink too much?

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Binghamton Research magazine highlights the relevance of Dr. Spear’s research.

Elena Varlinskaya


Research Professor

Ph.D., Institute of Experimental Medicine, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences
Area: Behavioral Neuroscience
Phone: 607-777-7164
Office: Science IV, Room 249
Curriculum vitae

Research Interests: Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychopharmacology, with a particular emphasis on the neurobehavioral mechanisms of peer-directed social behavior and alcohol abuse during adolescence

Ongoing Research

Social Consequences of Ethanol and the Endogenous Opioid Systems
Our previous research, using an animal model of peer-directed social interactions has shown that adolescent rats, like their human counterparts, are extremely sensitive to ethanol-induced social facilitation and relatively insensitive to socially suppressing and anxiety-provoking effects of ethanol. Our ongoing research explores whether the endogenous mu opioid system is involved in the mediation of socially activating effects of ethanol, whereas social anxiety evident at high ethanol doses is associated with the kappa opioid system.

Responsiveness to Social Stimuli and Social Drinking
Human adolescents drink in social situations, however the vast majority of animal models of ethanol intake test animals alone. In contrast to these studies, our new model of social drinking tests animals in social groups, allows for assessments of individual differences in ethanol intake, and produces high consumption levels. We are testing the hypothesis that responsiveness to social stimuli will predict ethanol intake in this social drinking paradigm.

Stress, Social Anxiety, and Anxiolytic Effects of Ethanol
In humans, social anxiety is viewed as a significant risk factor for the development of alcohol-related problems, and sensitivity to the anxiolytic effects of ethanol may be enhanced in socially anxious individuals. Using our animal model, we are testing the interactions between prior stress exposure, increases in social anxiety, and effectiveness of ethanol as an anxiolytic agent.

Selected Publications

Varlinskaya EI, Spear LP (2011). Increases in anxiety-like behavior induced by acute stress are reversed by ethanol in adolescent but not adult rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 100(3): 440-450.

Mooney SM, Varlinskaya EI (2011). Acute prenatal exposure to ethanol and social behavior: effects of age, sex, and timing of exposure. Behav Brain Res 216(1): 358-364.

Varlinskaya EI, Spear LP (2010). Sensitization to social anxiolytic effects of ethanol in adolescent and adult Sprague-Dawley rats after repeated ethanol exposure. Alcohol 44(1): 99-110.

Varlinskaya EI, Doremus-Fitzwater TL, Spear LP (2010). Repeated restraint stress alters sensitivity to the social consequences of ethanol in adolescent and adult rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 96(2): 228-235.

Spear LP, Varlinskaya EI (2010). Sensitivity to ethanol and other hedonic stimuli in an animal model of adolescence: implications for prevention science? Dev Psychobiol 52(3): 236-243.

Doremus-Fitzwater TL, Varlinskaya EI, Spear LP (2010). Motivational systems in adolescence: possible implications for age differences in substance abuse and other risk-taking behaviors. Brain Cogn 72(1): 114-123.

Anderson RI, Varlinskaya EI, Spear LP (2010). Ethanol-induced conditioned taste aversion in male sprague-dawley rats: impact of age and stress. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 34(12): 2106-2115.

Varlinskaya EI, Spear LP (2009). Ethanol-induced social facilitation in adolescent rats: role of endogenous activity at mu opioid receptors. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 33(6): 991-1000.

Doremus-Fitzwater TL, Varlinskaya EI, Spear LP (2009). Social and non-social anxiety in adolescent and adult rats after repeated restraint. Physiol Behav 97(3-4): 484-494.

Varlinskaya EI, Spear LP (2008). Social interactions in adolescent and adult Sprague-Dawley rats: impact of social deprivation and test context familiarity. Behav Brain Res 188(2): 398-405.

Varlinskaya EI, Spear LP (2007). Chronic tolerance to the social consequences of ethanol in adolescent and adult Sprague-Dawley rats. Neurotoxicol Teratol 29(1): 23-30.

Varlinskaya EI, Spear LP (2006). Differences in the social consequences of ethanol emerge during the course of adolescence in rats: social facilitation, social inhibition, and anxiolysis. Dev Psychobiol 48(2): 146-161.

Varlinskaya EI, Spear LP (2006). Ontogeny of acute tolerance to ethanol-induced social inhibition in Sprague-Dawley rats. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 30(11): 1833-1844.

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Last Updated: 12/6/11