Alan Rosenwasser


Ph.D. Experimental Psychology, Northeastern University, 1980


Dr. Rosenwasser is Professor of Psychology and Cooperating Professor of Biology and Ecology at the University of Maine.  He is a behavioral neuroscientist with major research interests in circadian biology and in alcohol and drug addiction.  Current research in the Rosenwasser laboratory is focused on the chronobiology of alcohol intake and alcoholism in animal models.  This work has been supported by the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism (INIA), and the Maine Institute for Human Genetics and Health (MIHGH).

Research Interests

Circadian rhythms are endogenous biological cycles with approximately 24-hour periods that influence physiological and behavioral processes ranging from gene expression and metabolism to mood and cognition. In complex animals, circadian rhythms are controlled by a hierarchically-organized, multi-oscillatory circadian timing system comprised of a circadian “pacemaker”, localized in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus, as well as a large number of “secondary” circadian oscillators, located elsewhere in the brain and in glands and organs throughout the body. This distributed circadian system is normally synchronized (“entrained”) by periodic factors in the environment, including daily cycles of light and darkness, temperature, and food availability. Recent research has indicated that disruption of normal circadian timing contributes to sleep disorders, depression, jet-lag and shift-work related health problems, and cancer. Thus, the study of circadian rhythms is critical to understanding normative psychobiological function, to the improvement of public health, and to the development of better treatments for various medical conditions.

For the last few years, my laboratory has been exploring relationships between circadian rhythms and alcohol intake in various animal models, including rats, mice, and hamsters, in order to better understand the disruptions in sleep and circadian rhythms that are commonly associated with alcohol abuse in human populations. In these studies, we are examining the effects of chronic and acute alcohol treatments on circadian rhythms, as well as the reciprocal effects of circadian rhythm disruption on voluntary alcohol intake. In addition, our work takes advantage of the availability of special rat and mouse lines with well-characterized genetic predispositions to consume (or avoid) alcohol. To date, we have found that chronic alcohol intake alters fundamental properties of the circadian pacemaker, including its “free-running” period and its control by light-dark cycles, and that exposure to a simulated “jet-lag” lighting regimen modulates alcohol intake. We hope that this work will eventually lead to the development of improved circadian-based strategies for the management or even prevention of alcohol related disorders. This work has been supported by the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the NIAAA-funded Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism (INIA), and the Maine Institute for Human Genetics and Health (MIHGH).

Selected Publications

  • McCulley III, W.D., Fixaris, M.C. and Rosenwasser, A.M. Alpha-adrenergic modulation of ethanol intake in C3H/HeJ mice. Submitted to Addiction Biology.
  • Rosenwasser, A.M., McCulley III, W.D, and Fixaris, M.C. Constant darkness and constant light suppress voluntary ethanol intake in mice. Submitted to Physiology and Behavior.
  • Rosenwasser, A.M. Chronobiology of alcohol: animal models. Alcohol, 49, 311-319, 2015.
  • Rosenwasser, A.M., Fixaris, M.C. and McCulley III, W.D. Photoperiodic modulation of
    voluntary ethanol intake in C57BL/6 mice. Physiology and Behavior, 147, 342-347, 2015.
  • Rosenwasser, A.M., McCulley III, W.D. and Fecteau, M. Circadian activity rhythms and
    voluntary ethanol intake in male and female ethanol-preferring rats: effects of long-term
    ethanol access. Alcohol, 48, 647-655, 2014.
  • Walls, S.A., Rosenwasser, A.M. and Devaud, L.L. Sex and regional differences in the effects
    of chronic intermittent ethanol exposure on subsequent excitotoxic challenge in organotypic
    hippocampal slice cultures. Neuroscience Letters, 550, 6-11, 2013
  • McCulley III, W.D., Ascheid, S., Crabbe, J.C. and Rosenwasser, A.M. Selective breeding for
    ethanol-related traits alters circadian phenotype. Alcohol, 47, 187-194, 2013.
  • Rosenwasser, A.M. and Fixaris, M.C. Chronobiology of alcohol: studies in C57BL/6J and
    DBA/2J inbred mice. Physiology and Behavior, 110/111, 140-147, 2013.
  • Devaud, L.L., Walls, S.A., McCulley III, W.D. and Rosenwasser, A.M. Voluntary wheel
    running attenuates ethanol withdrawal-induced increases in seizure susceptibility in male and
    female rats. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 103, 18-25, 2012.
  • Rosenwasser, A.M., Fixaris, M.C., Crabbe, J.C., Brooks, P. and Ascheid, S. Escalation of
    intake under intermittent ethanol access in diverse mouse genotypes. Addiction Biology,18,
    496-507, 2012.
  • Logan, R.W., Zhang, C., Murugan, S., O’Connell, S., Levitt, D., Rosenwasser, A.M. and
    Sarkar, D.K. Chronic shift-lag alters the circadian clock of natural killer cells and promotes
    lung cancer growth in rats. Journal of Immunology, 188, 2583-2591, 2012.
  • McCulley III, W.D., Walls, S.A., Khurana, R.C., Rosenwasser, A.M. and Devaud, L.L.
    Running wheel activity protects against increased seizure susceptibility in male rats.
    Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 100, 485-489, 2012.
  • Logan, R.W., McCulley III, W.D., Seggio, J.A. and Rosenwasser, A.M. Effects of withdrawal
    from chronic intermittent ethanol vapor on the level and circadian periodicity of running-wheel
    activity in C57BL/6J and C3H/HeJ mice. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 36,
    467-476, 2012.

Dissertation Students

Alan Rosenwasser