Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain Chemistry Ties Anxiety And Alcoholism

Date:
March 5, 2008
Source:
University of Illinois at Chicago
Summary:
Doctors may one day be able to control alcohol addiction by manipulating the molecular events in the brain that underlie anxiety associated with alcohol withdrawal, researchers report in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Doctors may one day be able to control alcohol addiction by manipulating the molecular events in the brain that underlie anxiety associated with alcohol withdrawal, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center report in the March 5 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

"The association of anxiety with increased alcohol use is a key factor in the initiation and maintenance of alcohol addition," says Dr. Subhash Pandey, UIC professor of psychiatry and director of neuroscience alcoholism research, the lead author of the study.

Previous research has shown that people with inherently high levels of anxiety are at an increased risk of becoming alcoholics. In addition, withdrawal of alcohol in chronic users is often accompanied by extreme anxiety.

"Alcoholics may feel a need to continue to drink alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate to reduce their anxiety and other unpleasant withdrawal symptoms," said Pandey.

Pandey and his colleagues have discovered the molecular basis for the link between anxiety and alcohol addiction, which may help in identifying new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of alcohol addiction.

The researchers found that a protein within neurons in the amygdala -- the area of the brain associated with emotion and anxiety -- controls the development of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and drinking behaviors in laboratory animals by changing the shape of the neurons. This change in shape affects the communication between neurons, leading to changes in behavior.

Neurons communicate by sending signals through branches called dendritic spines. The researchers found that short-term alcohol exposure increased the number of dendritic spines in certain regions of the amygdala, producing anti-anxiety effects. Alcohol-dependent animals eventually developed a tolerance to the anxiety-lowering effects of alcohol.

The researchers traced the anti-anxiety effect to the production of a particular protein, Arc, in response to a nerve growth factor called BDNF that is stimulated by alcohol exposure. BDNF is vital in the functioning and maintenance of neurons.

When alcohol was withheld from animals that had been chronically exposed, they developed high anxiety. Levels of BDNF and Arc -- and the number of dendritic spines -- were decreased in the amygdala. But the researchers were able to eliminate the anxiety in the alcohol-dependent animals by restoring BDNF and Arc to normal levels.

Pandey suggested that an initial easing of anxiety may encourage people to begin to use alcohol, while for chronic users, a lack of alcohol provokes high anxiety, creating a need to continue drinking to feel normal.

The researchers blocked Arc production in normal rats by injecting a complementary sequence to Arc gene DNA into the central amygdala. They found that when levels of Arc in the central amygdala were lowered, the spines decreased and anxiety and alcohol consumption increased. When levels of Arc were returned to normal three days post-injection, anxiety and alcohol consumption also returned to normal. In a previous study, researchers found that lowering BDNF in amygdala promoted anxiety and alcohol drinking.

"This is the first direct evidence of the molecular processes occurring in the neurons that is responsible for the co-morbidity of anxiety and alcoholism, which we believe plays a major role in the addictive nature of alcohol," said Pandey.

"This offers the possibility of new therapeutic target -- BDNF-Arc signaling and associated dendritic spines in the amygdala -- or new drug development."

"These observations by Dr. Pandey's research group provide an insight into the link between alcohol and anxiety and could be used to identify new targets for developing medications that alleviate withdrawal-induced anxiety and potentially modify a motivation for drinking," said Antonio Noronha, director of neuroscience and behavior research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The work was supported by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Huaibo Zhang, Rajesh Ugale, Anand Prakash, Tiejun Xu and Kaushik Misra of the UIC College of Medicine and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center also contributed to the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Chicago. "Brain Chemistry Ties Anxiety And Alcoholism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080304173356.htm>.
University of Illinois at Chicago. (2008, March 5). Brain Chemistry Ties Anxiety And Alcoholism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080304173356.htm
University of Illinois at Chicago. "Brain Chemistry Ties Anxiety And Alcoholism." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080304173356.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study by British researchers suggests couples' sleeping positions might reflect their happiness. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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