Meetings & Conferences

Foundation conference funds primarily support the International Medical Advisory Group (IMAG) conference. The IMAG is an annual meeting that presents various topics in current alcohol research and brings together scientists and industry representatives from around the world.

The Foundation also supports the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) Annual Scientific Meeting, which provides an opportunity for researchers, clinicians and students to interact and present their latest findings. Foundation funding to the RSA goes toward Student Merit and Junior Investigator Awards, so that the newest members of the research community are able to attend the meeting.


In addition, ABMRF/The Foundation for Alcohol Research Advisory Councils gather twice yearly to review grant applications. Board of Trustee meetings are held concurrent to these grant review meetings.

Recent & Upcoming Foundation Meeting Dates

Board and Council Meetings:

The Foundation's 66th Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled to take place in Baltimore on Friday, December 12, 2014.


38th IMAG, Amsterdam:

The 38th International Meeting on Alcohol and Health was convened in Amsterdam, The Netherlands on October 13th and 14th, 2014. The meeting, organized by ERAB: The European Foundation for Alcohol Research, was hosted by The Brewers of Europe.
37th International Medical Advisory Group Conference

The mission of ABMRF/The Foundation for Alcohol Research combines support for innovative research with a commitment to communicating scientific advances on alcohol and health to interested parties at conferences. The International Medical Advisory Group (IMAG) conference provides an opportunity for preeminent alcohol investigators, many affiliated with ABMRF, to present innovative research to scientific experts and the brewing industry.


Montréal, Québec – October 16-18, 2011


IMAG Montreal LogoThe 37th IMAG, hosted by the Brewers Association of Canada with scientific programming organized by ABMRF/The Foundation for Alcohol Research, was held October 16 through 18 in Montréal, Québec, Canada. One hundred participants from top universities, medical centers and brewing trade associations attended the conference. Sixteen countries were represented in all. The primary thrust of the conference was the research presentations featuring topics including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), alcohol and the liver, biology and neurobiology of drinking, and underage drinking prevention.


Premier ABMRF grantees and leadership shared the latest, most relevant findings in these areas of academic discovery. Engaging discussions followed each session. ABMRF President, Mack C. Mitchell, Jr., M.D., and Phillipe De Witte M.D., Chairman of ABMRF's sister organization in Europe, ERAB: The Foundation for Alcohol Research, concluded with a lay synopsis of the IMAG proceedings for the Worldwide Brewing Alliance.


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

The session began with an overview by Dr. Ed Riley, former member of the Foundation's Behavioral and Social Advisory Council (BSAC) and world-renowned FASD expert. FASD describes a range of physical, mental and behavioral effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Former grantee Dr. James Reynolds presented on the deficits in eye movement control in children with alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders (ARND). Measuring eye movement control assesses the frontostriatal and cerebellar function, which are brain structures that are atypically altered in children with FASD.


Grantee Dr. Krisztina Malisza discussed the importance of employing brain imaging to help diagnose these disorders. Her research uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a spatial working memory task to determine the cognitive events that distinguish children with ARND from those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The detection of alcohol exposure during pregnancy is critical, and grantee Dr. Ludmila Bakhireva shared her study identifying biomarkers pointing to maternal drinking. The combination of a maternal serum biomarker, gamma glutamyltranspeptidase (GGT), and two newborn biomarkers, meconium fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) and phosphatidylethanol (PEth), may provide the best sensitivity and specificity for identifying moderate alcohol consumed during pregnancy.


Current grantee Dr. Johann Eberhart then detailed the use of zebrafish as a model for discovering the gene-environment interactions present in FASD, including variable craniofacial phenotypes such as skull base defects, cleft palate and jaw hypoplasia. His results suggest that phenotypic variables in FASD occur from the interaction of gene and environment in reducing PI3K signaling.


Alcohol and the Liver

Dr. Mack C. Mitchell, Jr. and current chair of the Foundation's Medical Advisory Council (MAC), Dr. Laura Nagy, each presented relevant data on alcohol liver research. Dr. Mitchell elaborated on the role of alcohol in fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. Research suggests as many as 75% of obese individuals have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which occurs without drinking. Recent studies offer that particularly in men, moderate alcohol consumption may be associated with a decreased prevalence of NAFLD.  He shared that regular daily drinking appears to be a greater determinant of the protective effect than the amount of alcohol consumed daily. Moderate drinking may reduce the risk of fatty liver disease because of a reduction in insulin resistance and other factors.


Dr. Nagy presented research on the regulation of hepatic macrophage activation in alcoholic liver disease. She detailed how chronic drinking sensitizes Kupffer cells to activation by lipopolysaccharide (LPS), leading to increased production of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha). Complex signal transduction pathways regulate TNFalpha in response to LPS exposure. Following chronic drinking, the increased activation of certain pathways is associated with increased expression of Egr-1, a transcription factor required for enhanced LPS-stimulated TNFalpha mRNA expression. Recent research suggests that Egr-1 is important in the development of chronic ethanol-induced liver injury. Dr. Nagy described the critical role for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase-derived reactive oxygen species in the activation of pathways, allowing the production of TNFalpha in Kupffer cells after chronic drinking.


Biology and Neurobiology of Drinking


Session three featured topics including neurobiology of adolescent drinking, genetics and the association of stress with drinking. Dr. Fulton Crews, a former member of the MAC, reviewed the work of the neurobiology of adolescent drinking in adulthood (NADIA) project. The NADIA consortium of neuroscientists investigates rat models of underage drinking to determine if changes in brain and behavior persist into adulthood. Results suggest that enduring changes in alcohol tolerance, brain cholinergic neurons and impulsive behavior do indeed occur in adulthood as a result of adolescent binge drinking.


As adolescent drinking also is related to subsequent alcohol-use disorders (AUD), former grantee Dr. Arpana Agrawal spoke on the importance of genes and environment in determining the role of age of first drink. She shared her studies that relate age of first drink to the risk of developing future AUD’s, pointing out complex biological, genetic and environmental factors. Former grantee Dr. Joyce Besheer spoke on how stress forces the brain to perceive alcohol uniquely, escalating drinking and promoting relapse. Excessive drinking and relapse during stress may be prevented by restoring sensitivity to the feeling of drunkenness. The session concluded with grantee Dr. Huiping Zhang discussing his research to correlate a variation in the RGS17 gene with alcohol dependence. Genetic associations point to an altered variation in the RGS17 gene, which may increase vulnerability to dependence on alcohol. These findings will help target future medicinal therapies.


Underage Drinking Prevention


ABMRF is collaborating with ERAB to draft a joint report comparing and contrasting underage alcohol consumption in Europe and North America. Dr. Mitchell gave a brief introduction on the project then introduced  Dr. Helene White, former chair of the BSAC, and Dr. Franca Beccaria, a prominent Italian sociologist, to address the nature and prevalence of underage drinking. By the 10th grade, 75% of Canadian youth and more than 50% of American youth have tried alcohol; while, binge drinking was reported in almost 33% and 20%, respectively. In Europe, almost 90% of 15-16 year-olds have already consumed alcohol products. Differences in drinking patterns do exist throughout Europe, but on average, 39% of students report being intoxicated in the past year.


Dr. Kim Fromme, current chair of the BSAC, and Dr. Reinout Wiers, from the University of Amsterdam, presented on the risk and protective factors for underage drinking. Individual characteristics, peers, parents, and family environment are important influences on underage drinking behavior.


Prevention efforts in North America and Europe were cited by Dr. Sherry Stewart, another former chair of the BSAC, and Dr. Antti Latvala, from the University of Helsinki. Universally-applied prevention programs may not be as effective for those at most risk. However, programs targeted to specific groups appear more effective in reducing drinking in individuals and the larger community.  Dr. Pekka Sulkunen, a member of the ERAB Advisory Board, concluded the session with a discussion of the role of sociology in the prevention of underage drinking. Restrictions on availability may be the most successful approach for preventing underage drinking, if they are implemented universally and are easily enforced.

Learn more about the following topics featured at previous IMAG conferences:


36th IMAG Binge Drinking, Heavy Alcohol Intake Episodes, Pharmacological Treatments, Alcoholic Liver Disease, Alcohol and Cardiology, Alcohol and Cancer


"Mini" IMAG: A Briefing Session Underage and College Drinking, Medications to Treat Alcoholism, Fatty Liver Disease and Cirrhosis

35th IMAG Metabolism of Alcohol, Effects of Alcohol on Neural Stem Cells, Behavioral Responses to Alcohol in Social Drinkers, Alcohol and Nicotine, Various Interventions, Drug Development


34th IMAG Alcohol and Vascular Disease, Neuroscience of Alcohol and Nicotine Interactions, Alcohol and Cancer Epidemiology, Genetics, Youth Drinking


33rd IMAG Alcohol and Cognitive Behaviors, Alcohol and Cardiovascular Disease


32nd IMAG Policy and Public Health Issues on Prevention and Harm Reduction, Drinking and Driving in Australia, Neuroscience of Alcohol, Alcohol and youth, Special populations, Alcohol and nutrition


31st IMAG Alcohol and Cognition, Molecular Mechanisms of Craving


30th IMAG Alcohol and Vascular Disease, Education of Medical Professionals, Treatment Approaches, Alcohol and Driving, Alcohol and Emergency Medicine, Consumption Patterns in the European Union, Genome Mapping


29th IMAG Genetic Background in Response to Alcohol, Advances in Neuroscience, Alcohol-induced Gastroenterologic Disease, Alcohol and Breast Cancer, Risk and Recovery in Alcohol Dependence, Health Effects of Moderate Consumption, Minimizing Consequences, Challenges in Biomedical Alcohol Research, Challenges in Psychosocial Research

34th Annual Scientific Meeting on Research Society on Alcoholism

Research Society on AlcoholismThe 34th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA) was held June 25-29 in Atlanta, Georgia at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.  ABMRF/The Foundation for Alcohol Research proudly provides conference support for the RSA, the principal scientific society promoting those involved in understanding the causes of and potential cures for alcohol-related problems and alcoholism.


The conference was officially opened by Robert O. Messing, M.D., RSA president and former grantee and chair of the ABMRF Medical Advisory Council. Following his remarks and memorials, he introduced the second annual Dr. Ting-Kai Li Lectureship, named for the former director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and current ABMRF Board of Trustees member, Ting-Kai Li, M.D. The 2011 lectureship was presented to Ulrike Heberlein, Ph.D., former ABMRF grantee, for her distinguished alcohol research on genes, social experience and behavior using the fruit fly Drosophila as a model system. She presented a plenary session on new data demonstrating that social experience affects ethanol intoxication and consumption.


Symposia and project posters were presented throughout the conference by preeminent alcohol researchers, many of whom were former and current grantees, Advisory Council and Board members of the Foundation. RSA encouraged symposia bridging research fields to provide the opportunity for broader discussions on translational research.


The honored recipient of the 24th annual Research Society on Alcoholism Sexias Award for Service was Edward Riley, Ph.D., a distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Center for Behavioral Teratology at San Diego State University and longtime member of the ABMRF Behavioral and Social Advisory Council. The RSA Board of Directors selects the recipient of this award. The Sexias Award is one RSA's most prestigious honors, and it is presented at the meeting's closing ceremony with a plaque and watch. Dr. Riley is a pioneering expert in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), who has served as president of RSA and was previously awarded the RSA Distinguished Researcher Award in 2005.


This year's RSA featured a symposium in tribute to the impressive research of the late Muriel D. Vogel-Sprott, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Waterloo and a former ABMRF grantee. Her research focus was on basic learning and cognitive processes related to alcohol-related risks of accidents and drug abuse. Former grantees Mark Fillmore, Ph.D. and Harriet de Wit, Ph.D. led the symposium in honor of Dr. Vogel-Sprott's accomplished research career. Studies on the learning and conditioning of alcohol behaviors were presented by researchers she had mentored and experts in the field. Her innovative research was explored in the topics of cognitive function, tolerance, working memory and caffeine.

A touching tribute to G. Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., professor and director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, was presented to honor his memory and groundbreaking work following his passing earier this year. Spanning nearly four decades, his career as a research and clinical psychologist pioneered work in addictive behaviors. Former friends, students and colleagues shared the importance of his work and his friendship. Those attending the tribute were welcomed to share their memories of Dr. Marlatt, highlighting the many lives and careers he had touched throughout the research community. A member of RSA since 1987, Dr. Marlatt was a recipient of the Jellinek Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to knowledge in the field of alcohol studies. Dr. Marlatt was a former ABMRF grantee and former member of the Behavioral and Social Advisory Council.


The meeting concluded as the 2009-2010 RSA President, Dr. Messing, transferred the leadership of RSA to the incoming president, Mark Goldman, M.D., a former chair of the ABMRF Medical Advisory Council.

37th International Medical
Advisory Conference

Montréal, Québec, Canada

37th IMAG Underage Drinking Expert Panel
Kim Fromme, Ph.D. on Underage Drinking
Helene Raskin White, Ph.D. on Underage Drinking
37th IMAG Conference Assembly