Lara S. Hwa, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
Psychology & Neuroscience
Ph.D., Tufts University, 2015
B.S., Tufts University, 2009
Dr. Hwa completed her Ph.D. at Tufts University focusing on the neuropeptides that underlie how stress increases alcohol drinking using mouse models. During her graduate career, she was awarded an NRSA F31 predoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Dissertation Research Award from the American Psychological Association. Dr. Hwa next sought postdoctoral training at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. There, she learned how to examine synaptic function with brain slice electrophysiology and circuit neuroscience techniques, training that led her to receive a Pathway to Independence K99/R00 Award from the NIAAA. In addition to research accolades, Dr. Hwa has also been formally recognized for her mentorship of undergraduate students during her graduate and postdoctoral training environments. Dr. Hwa joined the faculty of Baylor Psychology & Neuroscience and started her laboratory in January 2021.
Academic Interests and Research
Dr. Hwa’s research focuses on the cells and circuits underlying how stress interacts with long-term alcohol drinking. Using mouse models, Dr. Hwa combines classical pharmacological methods with modern neuroscience strategies to answer fundamental questions in alcohol and stress behavioral neuroscience. This research laboratory seeks to understand the important external variables, such as social stress or the limited availability of alcohol, that contribute to excessive drinking in mice. Our exploration of the consequent neuroadaptations (e.g. dysregulated stress neuropeptides, alcohol-induced neuroplasticity) ultimately inform novel approaches for the behavioral prevention and pharmaceutical treatment of alcohol-related psychopathology.
For additional information about Dr. Hwa's research, please see the website for the Neuroscience of Stress and Alcohol Drinking Laboratory.
Hwa, L.S., Neira, S., Pina, M.M., Pati, D., Calloway, R., Kash, T.L. (2019). Predator Odor Increases Avoidance and Glutamatergic Synaptic Transmission in the Prelimbic Cortex via Corticotropin-Releasing Factor 1 signaling. Neuropsychopharmacology 44(4): 766-775.
Hwa, L., Besheer, J., Kash, T. (2017). Glutamate plasticity woven through the progression to alcohol use disorder: a multi-circuit perspective. F1000Research 6: 298.
Hwa, L.S., Holly, E.N., DeBold, J.F., Miczek, K.A. (2016). Social stress-escalated intermittent alcohol drinking: modulation by CRF-R1 in the ventral tegmental area and accumbal dopamine in mice. Psychopharmacology 233(4): 681-690.
Hwa, L.S., DeBold, J.F., Miczek, K.A. (2013). Alcohol in excess: CRF1 receptors in the VTA and DRN. Psychopharmacology 225: 313-327.
Hwa, L.S., Chu, A., Levinson, S.A., Kayyali, T.K., DeBold, J.F., Miczek, K.A. (2011). Persistent escalation of alcohol drinking in C57BL/6J mice with intermittent access to 20% ethanol. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 35(11): 1938-1947.
Complete list of published works at Google Scholar
Grants Funded- Current
Long-term alcohol drinking alters the stress engagement of BNST circuit elements. K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Principal Investigator, AA027576; 09/2019-09/2024).
Graduate student Recruitment
Dr. Hwa is currently accepting applications for Ph.D. students to enroll in Fall 2023.
Current Ph.D. Students
Mariana Dejeux, M.S., University of Texas at San Antonio
Baylor Courses Taught
- PSY 3355 Drugs & Behavior
- NSC XV9R Research
- NSC 5V51 Supervised Teaching