Avegno, Elizabeth M., PhD

Instructor - Research

1901 Perdido Street
MEB 7106
New Orleans, LA  70112
Phone:  (504)568-1615


  • 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 Adolescent Alcohol Use on Neural Circuits. Epidemiological research points to adolescence as a critical period for the development of alcohol use disorders (AUDs), and binge drinking and early initiation of alcohol use during adolescence have been identified as important high-risk indicators. 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 adolescent alcohol exposure in both brain stress and reward circuits.

Teaching Activities

  • Co-Director, Perspectives in Alcohol and Research (Physio 289)
  • Co-Director, Special Topics in Physiology: Physiological Basis of Behavior (Physio 289-0002)
  • Instructor, Human Physiology for Dental Students (Dent 1115); Human Physiology for Nursing Students (HLSC 2410)

Selected Publications

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)