Dr. Brett Ginsburg's research focuses on the behavioral neurobiology of alcohol and cannabinoids. This research has established among the very first animal models of recovery. His results indicate that reinforcing alternative behavior reduces attention to alcohol and alcohol-related cues in the environment, which in turn decreases the likelihood of relapse. This is consistent with human research on attentional bias which shows that the risk of relapse is directly related to the amount of attention an individual pays to alcohol or alcohol-related cues.
In the coming years, Dr. Ginsburg expects to explore this notion by examining the extent to which attentional bias predicts or modifies alcohol use and relapse. A recently funded (R21) project will aid this endeavor by establishing a novel and innovative preclinical (animal) model of attentional bias. This model contains many of the same aspects as the human attentional bias assay, providing a unique level of translational research. Further, once established, this model will allow pharmacological and neurobiological investigations into the mechanisms involved in attention to drug or alcohol-related cues.
He has also published several widely cited studies on the ability of the anti-smoking medication varenicline (Chantix) to reduce alcohol use. His research indicates that the ability of varenicline to reduce drinking while sparing other behavior depends on the baseline pattern of use. The implication of this finding is that varenicline might be more effective in those with high levels of drinking relative to other activities (the most severely afflicted), but might increase drinking among those with more moderate levels of use and greater balance with other daily activities. This research bolsters the growing tendency to consider more personalized treatment strategies, based on the individual''s characteristics.