Ronald L. Alkana, Pharm.D, Ph.D.

Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology

Pharmacology of alcohol and other psychoactive drugs


My current research program investigates the mechanism of action and effects of ethanol on brain function and behavior. The main thrust of this work involves the development and use of physical manipulations (pressure and temperature) and pharmacological agents as tools for exploring the biochemical and physiological changes which lead to: 1) the acute and chronic behavioral effects of ethanol (intoxication, alterations in learning and memory, development of tolerance and physical dependence); 2) the toxic effects of ethanol (lethality and developmental abnormalities--FAS); and 3) the biological basis of genetically determined differences in ethanol sensitivity.

A second thrust of our research involves exploring the roles played by specific neurotransmitter systems as sites of action for ethanol. These putative sites include the GABAA receptor and the receptors for excitatory amino acids, particularly NMDA. This work involves a broad spectrum of behavioral, biochemical and molecular biological techniques. Our recent studies in this area presented the first evidence showing pressure antagonism of ethanolís effects on GABAA receptor function measured biochemically and led us to develop a new hypothesis regarding the precise molecular sites of action for ethanol on brain cells.

The long term goal of work in the laboratory is to identify specific targets underlying the effects of ethanol at which therapeutic agents can be directed to reduce the social problems, loss of lives and tremendous economic costs resulting from the misuse and abuse of alcohol and other psychoactive agents.

Selected Publications

  1. Alkana, R.L.., Davies, D.L., Mfrland, J., Parker, E.S. and Bejanian, M. Low level hyperbaric exposure antagonizes locomotor effects of ethanol and n-propanol, but not morphine, in C57/BL mice. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 19:693-700, 1995.
  2. Davies, D.L., Bejanian, M., Parker, E.S., Mfrland, J., Bolger, M.B., Brinton, R.D. and Alkana, R.L. Low level hyperbaric antagonism of diazepamís locmotor depressant and anticonvulsant properties in mice. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 276:667-675, 1996.
  3. Musleh, W., Alvarez, S., Baudry, M. and Alkana, R.L. Effects of ethanol and temperature on NMDA receptor function in different mouse genotypes. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, in press, 1996