Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Find Alcohol, Drugs Boost Endorphins In Key Forebrain Region

Date:
December 27, 2001
Source:
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill
Summary:
One of the brain’s natural painkillers -- beta endorphin -- increases significantly in response to alcohol, cocaine and amphetamine drug administration in a key region of the brain that controls addiction, researchers have discovered.

CHAPEL HILL -- One of the brain’s natural painkillers -- beta endorphin -- increases significantly in response to alcohol, cocaine and amphetamine drug administration in a key region of the brain that controls addiction, researchers have discovered.

The work, conducted in rats, strongly suggests that the same thing occurs in humans, the scientists say. It offers what could be important new clues in the fight against alcohol and drug addiction.

A report on the findings appears as a rapid communication in the newest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Authors of the paper include Drs. M. Foster Olive of the University of California at San Francisco and Clyde W. Hodge of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"This is the first demonstration that drugs of abuse increase beta endorphin levels in a key part of the brain that influences addiction," said senior author Hodge, associate professor of psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine. "The name of this important forebrain region is the nucleus accumbens. We and others had suspected this response, but it had never been proven until now because methods were not available to test it.

"In this latest work, Dr. Olive adapted a technique for quantifying endorphins and used it to measure how one of the brain’s natural painkillers responds to addicting drugs."

For at least four decades, biomedical researchers have known based on animal studies that certain regions of the brain, when stimulated, produced pleasurable effects, said Hodge, also a member of UNC’s Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. Those "rewards" promote substance use initially, and eventually, habitual users find it hard to function without them.

About 15 or so years ago, scientists discovered that in those brain regions drugs of abuse caused an elevation in the neurotransmitter compound dopamine, he said. Such knowledge helps them pin down how abused substances affect humans and narrows the search for compounds that can block cravings without harming addicted people.

The researchers administered alcohol, cocaine, amphetamine, nicotine and an inactive salt solution to laboratory rats via injections twice at three-hour intervals. Then, using a technique known as microdialysis combined with solid-phase radioimmunoassay, they measured endorphin levels in brain fluids removed from awake and active rats and found the effect in rodents given the first three drugs.

"We hypothesize that this drug-induced release of endorphins may contribute to the positive reinforcing and motivating properties of alcohol and psychostimulant drugs," Hodge said. "We did not find this same boost in endorphins in this brain region with nicotine, but we don’t know why. It could be that the dose of nicotine we used was too low or that nicotine does not cause this same effect and instead acts in some other way."

Additional research will show whether nicotine increases beta endorphin in the nucleus accumbens or whether it acts on different systems, he said. Such information should contribute to efforts to help people stop smoking.

"This new work also offers a useful technique for evaluating some of the more pertinent questions such as is beta endorphin elevated during craving or during drug self-administration?" Hodge said. "That would suggest that this is a system that could be targeted for development of medications that might help humans deal with the problem of drug addiction."

Future experiments will determine whether the same effect exists in brain if rats actively consume drugs on their own when given the chance, which they usually do.

The research was supported by funds from the state of California for medical research on alcohol and substance abuse through the University of California at San Francisco.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Scientists Find Alcohol, Drugs Boost Endorphins In Key Forebrain Region." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 December 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011227074357.htm>.
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. (2001, December 27). Scientists Find Alcohol, Drugs Boost Endorphins In Key Forebrain Region. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011227074357.htm
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Scientists Find Alcohol, Drugs Boost Endorphins In Key Forebrain Region." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011227074357.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins