Avegno, Elizabeth M., PhD

Assistant Professor

533 Bolivar Street, Room 601C
New Orleans, LA  70112
Phone:  (504)568-6191


  • BS, Biological Chemistry Tulane University
  • MA, Pharmacology and Molecular Signaling Columbia University
  • MPhil, Pharmacology and Molecular Signaling Columbia University
  • PhD, Pharmacology and Molecular Signaling Columbia University

Research Interests

Brain Stress and Reward System Interactions in Alcohol Dependence. The neural adaptations that define excessive alcohol drinking in alcohol dependent individuals may include interactions between mesolimbic reward circuits and brain stress circuits. We are currently characterizing the ventral tegmental area (VTA) – central amygdala (CeA) circuit in both mice and rats by combining retro- and anterograde tracing, immunohistochemical, electrophysiological, and optogenetic techniques. Chronic intermittent exposure (CIE) to ethanol vapor is used to induce dependence in both mice and rats, and ongoing experiments are investigating alterations in this circuit following alcohol dependence, as well as the role of this circuit in alcohol dependence-associated behaviors.

Effects of Early Life Adversity and Adolescent Alcohol Use on Neural Circuits. Early life stress (ELS) exposure and early initiation of alcohol drinking are both independently associated with an increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD) in later life in humans. ELS increases alcohol consumption in adolescent humans, and given the existing relationship between earlier age of onset of drinking and increased propensity to develop AUD in adulthood, ELS and adolescent drinking may have additive effects on alcohol drinking and the risk of developing AUD in adulthood. Previous research has focused on the effects of adolescent alcohol exposure on the sensitivity of VTA neurons to ethanol. Ongoing research interests continue to investigate neural adaptations following ELS and/or adolescent alcohol exposure in both brain stress and reward circuits.

Teaching Activities

  • Co-Director, Physiology Journal Club (Physio 290)
  • Instructor, Human Physiology for Dental Students (Dent 1115); Human Physiology for Nursing Students (HLSC 2410)

Selected Publications

Edwards S, Callicoatte CN, Barattini AE, Cucinello-Ragland JA, Melain A, Edwards KN, Gilpin NW, Avegno EM, Pahng AR (2022). Pramipexole treatment attenuates mechanical hypersensitivity in male rats experiencing chronic inflammatory pain. Neuropharmacology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2022.108976.

Avegno EM, Gilpin NW (2021). Reciprocal midbrain-extended amygdala circuit activity in preclinical models of alcohol use and misuse. Neuropharmacology, doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2021.108856.

Souza-Smith F, Albrechet-Souza L, Avegno EM, Ball CD, Ferguson TF, Harrison-Bernard LM, Molina PE (2021). Perspectives against racism: Educational and socialization efforts at the departmental level. Advances in Physiology Education, 1;45(4):720-729.

Avegno EM, Kasten CR, Snyder III WB, Kelley LK, Lobell TD, Templeton TJ, Constans M, Wills TA, Middleton JW, Gilpin NW (2020). Alcohol dependence activates ventral tegmental area projections to central amygdala in male mice and rats. Addiction Biology, doi: 10.1111/(ISSN)1369-1600. 

Weera MM, Schreiber AL, Avegno EM, Gilpin NW (2020). The role of central amygdala corticotropin-releasing factor in predator odor stress-induced avoidance behavior and escalated alcohol drinking in rats. Neuropharmacology, doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2020.107979.

Avegno EM, Middleton JW, Gilpin NW (2019). Synaptic GABAergic transmission in the central amygdala (CeA) of rats depends on slice preparation and recording conditions. Physiological Reports 7(19): e14245.

Avegno EM, Gilpin NW (2019). Inducing Alcohol Dependence in Rats Using Chronic Intermittent Exposure to Alcohol Vapor.  Bio-protocol 9(9): e3222.

Avegno EM, Lobell TD, Itoga CA, Baynes BB, Whitaker AM, Weera MM, Edwards S, Middleton J, Gilpin NW (2018). Central amygdala circuits mediate hyperalgesia in alcohol-dependent rats. Journal of Neuroscience, 38, 7761-7773.

Salling MC, Skelly MJ, Avegno E, Regan S, Zeric T, Nichols E, Harrison NL (2018). Alcohol consumption during adolescence in a mouse model of binge drinking alters the intrinsic excitability and function of the prefrontal cortex through a reduction in the hyperpolarization-activated cation current. Journal of Neuroscience, 38, 6207-6222.

Avegno EM, Salling MC, Borgkvist A, Mrejeru A, Whitebirch AC, Margolis EB, Sulzer D, Harrison NL (2016). Voluntary adolescent drinking enhances excitation by low levels of alcohol in a subset of dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area. Neuropharmacology, 110, 386-395.

Borgkvist A, Avegno EM, Wong MY, Kheirbek MA, Sonders MS, Hen R, Sulzer D (2015). Loss of striatonigral GABAergic presynaptic inhibition enables motor sensitization in parkinsonian mice. Neuron, 87(5), 976-988.

Mrejeru A, Martí-Prats L, Avegno EM, Harrison NL, Sulzer D (2015). A subset of ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons responds to acute ethanol. Neuroscience, 290, 649-658.

Center of Excellence

Alcohol & Drug Abuse Center of Excellence (ADACE)