The Developmental Exposure Alcohol Research Center (DEARC) received a five-year, $8.2 million grant on Sept. 1 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The DEARC researches the effects of alcohol abuse, focusing on the effects of maternal alcohol consumption and adolescent binge drinking.

The lab is trying to better understand the reasons why destructive behaviors occur. According to Linda Spear, psychology professor and coordinator of the DEARC lab, alcohol exposure affects brain development and behavior both before birth and after, and prenatal exposure increases the likelihood of adolescent abuse.

“Elevated alcohol use during adolescence increases the probability of developing an alcohol abuse disorder in adulthood, thereby increasing the probability of use during pregnancy and continuing the cycle of alcohol problems into the next generation,” Spear said.

The labs, in collaboration with similar labs at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, are also trying to better understand the cycle and prevent it from continuing.

The laboratories are divided into three divisions, studying the ‘cores’ of the DEARC: animal, cell and molecular biology and neuroantomy. The animal core studies the effect of alcohol on the brain function and structure in rodents. The molecular biology core examines cell structure and the neuroanatomy core studies the effect of alcohol on brain development.

According to Spear, the lab was selected for funding because of the excellence of the researchers and the value of the proposed research.

“An important aspect of Centers is that they are more than the sum of their parts – that the research efforts of the group as a whole working together are greater than the combined efforts of each member of the group,” she wrote in an email.

The grant money, which is an accumulation of a number of smaller grants from the NIH, is designated for funding staff and graduate researchers, as well as lab equipment and supplies.

“The DEARC funds a number of laboratories here at Binghamton,” Spear wrote. “Providing research opportunities for graduate students, undergraduate students and their faculty research mentors and salary support for several dozen individuals here and at Upstate.”

However, she said that some of the money would still be available for use for outreach, research consultations and DEARC meetings.

The supplies and funding end up being beneficial to undergraduate students as well, according to psychology chair Peter Gerhardstein.

“Undergraduates in these labs acquire cutting edge techniques and experience with hands-on research with something that truly is a growing concern, not just a lab exercise,” Gerhardstein said. “This is a real world research lab with real world research problems. It’s the best option for any postgraduate line of study.”