Addiction & Substance Overuse
Alcoholism and Drug Abuse
A Better Understanding of Alcoholism
A cure for alcoholism and other addiction could be closer to realization thanks to researchers’ discovery of a neuron that determines whether one drink leads to two.
A study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience by researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, finds that alcohol consumption alters the structure and function of neurons in the dorsomedial striatum, a part of the brain known to be important in goal-driven behaviors. The findings could be an important step toward creation of a drug to combat alcoholism.
“Alcoholism is a very common disease,” said Jun Wang, M.D., Ph.D., the lead author on the paper and an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, “but the mechanism is not understood very well.”
Using an animal model, the researchers determined that alcohol actually changes the physical structure of medium spiny neurons, the main type of cell in the striatum. “If these neurons are excited, you will want to drink alcohol,” Wang said. “You’ll have a craving.”
“My ultimate goal is to understand how the addicted brain works,” Wang said, “and once we do, one day, we’ll be able to suppress the craving for another round of drinks and ultimately, stop the cycle of alcoholism.”