Heather Richardson studies the influences of heavy, episodic alcohol consumption (i.e. “binge drinking”) on neurological and behavioral development using rodent models. Early onset alcohol use is one of the strongest predictors of a lifetime prevalence of alcohol dependence and is associated with cognitive impairments and emotional dysregulation in adulthood.
Unfortunately, scientists have limited understanding of the exact connections between alcohol intake and various addiction-related structures in the brain. As a Family Scholar, Richardson explored these connections and their differences in male and female rats (the latter have been greatly neglected in past research). This research has the capacity to contribute greatly to understanding what drives binge drinking in male and female adolescents and how this risky behavior impacts mental health in adulthood.