Zoe McElligott, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and pharmacology and member of the UNC Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, will investigate how neurotransmitters promote alcohol consumption and whether chronic alcohol consumption alters the strength of a specific brain circuit.


Zoe McElligott PhD, assistant professor in the UNC Department of Psychiatry and the UNC Department of Pharmacology, received a $1.98-million dollar grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – part of the NIH – to investigate a neural circuit that promotes alcohol consumption.

The McElligott lab at the UNC Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies will lead the research in collaboration with Todd Thiele, PhD, professor in the UNC Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, to mechanistically dissect the neurotransmitters that play a role in the cellular pathway between the central nucleus of the amgydala (CeA) and the parabrachial (PBN), to promote the consumption of alcohol. Furthermore, this grant will investigate if chronic alcohol consumption alters the strength of this circuit.

By understanding how this circuit functions to promote the consumption of alcohol, the researchers hope to develop new hypotheses for pharmacological interventions to prevent excessive alcohol consumption and abuse. McElligott published initial research in the journal Neuroscience in 2019.

In April, McElligott received a $2-million NIH grant to study opioid withdrawal,