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The therapeutic potential of oxytocin in alcohol related harms


Alcohol is the most widely abused recreational drug in the world and arguably the most harmful. Acute alcohol intoxication can result in disability or death through alcohol related injury or poisoning, while chronic use can lead to addiction, impaired mental health and physical health, disintegration of social and family ties, poverty and homelessness. The current treatment options for alcohol dependence are limited with both pharmacological and psychosocial interventions having questionable efficacy and uptake within the community. Novel, more efficacious interventions are clearly required. The GABAergic system is particularly sensitive to the effects of ethanol, with the delta subunit containing GABA-A receptors strongly implicated in the sedative, rewarding and possibly aggression-heightening effects of ethanol. Our recent work has shown that oxytocin can modulate the effects of alcohol at these receptors (Bowen et al., 2015. Oxytocin prevents ethanol actions at δ subunit-containing GABA-A receptors and attenuates ethanol-induced motor impairment in rats. PNAS), a finding which we wish to elucidate further in the current project. This project aims to improve our mechanistic understanding of how alcohol interacts with the brain to intoxicate, reward and disinhibit the individual. 


Professor Iain McGregor.

Research location

School of Psychology

Program type



The overall aim of this project is to extend our knowledge of oxytocin's interaction with ethanol at GABA-A receptors and the associated therapeutic potential of this effect in both in vitro and in vivo models. 

Additional information

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2010

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