Lara S. Hwa, Ph.D.

Lara S. Hwa, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
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Assistant Professor of Neuroscience

Neuroscience of Stress and Alcohol Drinking Lab 


Postdoctoral Fellow, Pharmacology & Neuroscience, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, 2015-2020

Ph.D., Experimental Psychology, Tufts University, 2015

M.S., Experimental Psychology, Tufts University, 2012

B.S., Biopsychology, 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 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.


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 more details, please visit the laboratory website.

Representative Publications:

Hwa, L.S., Neira, S., Flanigan, M. E., Stanhope, C. M., Pina, M. M., Pati, D., Hon, O. J., Yu, W., Kokush, E., Calloway, R., Boyt, K., Kash, T. L. (2020). Alcohol drinking alters stress response to predator odor via BNST kappa opioid receptor signaling in male mice. eLife 9: e59709.

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.

Yu, W., Hwa, L.S., Makhijani, V., Besheer, J., Kash, T.L. (2019). Chronic inflammatory pain drives alcohol drinking in a sex-dependent manner for C57BL/6J mice. Alcohol 77: 135-145.

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., Shimamoto, A., Norman, K.J., Kayyali, T., Valentino, R.J., DeBold, J.F., Miczek, K.A. (2016). Dissociation of mu opioid receptor and CRF-R1 antagonist effects on escalated ethanol consumption and mPFC serotonin in C57BL/6J mice. Addiction Biology 21(1): 111-24.

Hwa, L.S., Nathanson, A.J., Shimamoto, A., Tayeh, J., Wilens, A.R., Holly, E.N., Newman, E.L., DeBold, J.F., Miczek, K.A. (2015). Aggression and increased glutamate in the mPFC during withdrawal from intermittent alcohol in outbred mice. Psychopharmacology, 232(16): 2889-2902.

Quadros, I.M., Hwa, L.S., Shimamoto, A., Carlson, J.M., DeBold, J.F., Miczek, K.A. (2014). Prevention of alcohol-heightened aggression by CRF-R1 antagonists in mice: critical role for DRN-PFC serotonin pathway. Neuropsychopharmacology 39: 2874-2883.

Hwa, L.S., Kalinichev, M., Haddouk, H., Poli, S., Miczek, K.A. (2014). Reduction of excessive alcohol drinking by a novel GABAB receptor positive allosteric modulator ADX71441 in mice. Psychopharmacology 231: 333-343.

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 Lara Hwa, PhD

Current Research Support:

Long-term alcohol drinking alters 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 anticipates recruiting a Ph.D. student with a start date in Fall 2022.

Courses taught at Baylor:

  • PSY 3355 - Drugs & Behavior