Headshot photo of Deborah A. Finn, Ph.D.

Deborah A. Finn, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience, School of Medicine
  • Research Pharmacologist, Research Service, VA Portland Health Care System
  • Behavioral Neuroscience Graduate Program, School of Medicine


Major Areas
Neuropharmacology; neuroendocrinology of ethanol intake and withdrawal; sex differences; stress 

Summary of Current Research

Currently funded research projects are examining mechanisms underlying “sensitivity” and “resilience” to the escalation in ethanol intake after intermittent traumatic stress exposure in male and female mice with a prior history of binge drinking or of no binge drinking. We observed marked sex differences in adaptations in several neurochemical systems and biological pathways following binge drinking that may confer susceptibility for a later increase in drinking behavior and in sensitivity to stress. Additionally, stress-enhanced drinking produced sexually divergent changes in stress-system proteins. One project is examining behavioral and epigenetic changes associated with “sensitivity” and “resilience” to stress-enhanced drinking after prior binge drinking. A second project is investigating how behavioral and stress system related changes in discrete neuroanatomical circuits confer “sensitivity” to stress-enhanced drinking. An understanding of mechanisms that confer “sensitivity” to traumatic stress-enhanced drinking is necessary for the development of interventions for the treatment of comorbid post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol use disorder, which likely differ in males and females.

Additional (and currently unfunded) research projects focused on the physiological significance of neurosteroid actions as positive allosteric modulators of GABA-A receptors. Behavioral, neurochemical, and electrophysiological strategies examined whether a dysregulation in GABAergic neurosteroids: a) contributed to high ethanol withdrawal or b) altered the appetitive and consummatory processes involved in ethanol self-administration. Overall goals were to evaluate the therapeutic potential of neurosteroid treatment during ethanol withdrawal as well as the influence of neurosteroids on sex differences in patterns of ethanol intake and the response to ethanol, since males and females differ in endogenous neurosteroid levels.

Previous Positions
NINDS Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of California, Irvine

Education and training

    • B.S., 1978, Loyola Marymount University
    • Ph.D., 1989, University of Southern California

Areas of interest

  • GABAergic neurosteroid modulation of ethanol drinking and ethanol withdrawal
  • Molecular, neurochemical, and behavioral changes associated with sensitivity and resilience to stress-enhanced drinking
  • Neurochemical substrates underlying binge drinking and interaction with stress with a focus on sex differences


Selected publications

  • Finn DA. The endocrine system and alcohol drinking in females. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews 40(2):02, 2020.
  • Nipper MA, Jensen JP, Helms ML, Ford MM, Crabbe JC, Rossi DJ and Finn DA. Genotype differences in sensitivity to the anticonvulsant effect of the synthetic neurosteroid ganaxolone during chronic ethanol withdrawal. Neuroscience 397:127-137, 2019.
  • Finn DA, Hashimoto JG, Cozzoli DK, Helms ML, Nipper MA, Kaufman MN, Wiren KM, and Guizzetti M. Binge ethanol drinking produces sexually divergent and distinct changes in nucleus accumbens signaling cascades and pathways in adult C57BL/6J mice. Front Genetics 9:325, 2018.
  • Finn DA, Helms ML, Nipper MA, Cohen A, Jensen JJ, and Devaud LL. Sex differences in the synergistic effect of prior binge drinking and traumatic stress on subsequent ethanol intake and neurochemical responses in adult C57BL/6J mice. Alcohol 71:33-45, 2018.
  • Finn DA and Jimenez VA. Dynamic adaptation in neurosteroid networks in response to alcohol. Handb Exp Pharmacol 248:55-78, 2018.
  • Jensen JP, Nipper MA, Helms ML, Ford MM, Crabbe JC, Rossi DJ, and Finn DA. Ethanol withdrawal-induced dysregulation of neurosteroid levels in plasma, cortex, and hippocampus in genetic animal models of high and low withdrawal. Psychopharmacology 234:2793-2811, 2017.
  • Kaplan JS, Nipper MA, Richardson BD, Jensen J, Finn DA and Rossi DJ. Pharmacologically counteracting a phenotypic difference in cerebellar GABAA receptor response to alcohol prevents excessive alcohol consumption in a high alcohol consuming rodent genotype. J Neurosci 36:9019-9025, 2016.
  • Cozzoli DK, Kaufman MN, Nipper MA, Hashimoto JG, Wiren KM, and Finn DA. Functional regulation of PI3K-associated signaling in the accumbens by binge alcohol drinking in male but not female mice. Neuropharmacology 105:164-174, 2016.
  • Guizzetti M, Davies DL, Egli M, Finn DA, Molina P, Regunathan S, Robinson DL and Sohrabji F. Sex and the lab: an alcohol-focused commentary on the NIH initiative to balance sex in cell and animal studies. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 40:1182-1191, 2016.
  • Ramaker MJ, Strong-Kaufman MN, Ford MM, Phillips TJ and Finn DA. Effect of nucleus accumbens shell infusions of ganaxolone or gaboxadol on ethanol consumption in mice. Psychopharmacology 232:1415-1426, 2015.


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