Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Alcoholism could be linked to a hyper-active brain dopamine system

Date:
August 2, 2013
Source:
McGill University
Summary:
Research suggests that people who are vulnerable to developing alcoholism exhibit a distinctive brain response when drinking alcohol, according to a new study. Compared to people at low risk for alcohol-use problems, those at high risk showed a greater dopamine response in a brain pathway that increases desire for rewards. These findings could help shed light on why some people are more at risk of suffering from alcoholism and could mark an important step toward the development of treatment options.

Research from McGill University suggests that people who are vulnerable to developing alcoholism exhibit a distinctive brain response when drinking alcohol, according to a new study by Prof. Marco Leyton, of McGill University's Department of Psychiatry. Compared to people at low risk for alcohol-use problems, those at high risk showed a greater dopamine response in a brain pathway that increases desire for rewards.

These findings, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, could help shed light on why some people are more at risk of suffering from alcoholism and could mark an important step toward the development of treatment options.

"There is accumulating evidence that there are multiple pathways to alcoholism, each associated with a distinct set of personality traits and neurobiological features," said Prof. Leyton, a researcher in the Mental Illness and Addiction axis at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC). "These individual differences likely influence a wide range of behaviors, both positive and problematic. Our study suggests that a tendency to experience a large dopamine response when drinking alcohol might contribute to one (or more) of these pathways."

For the study, researchers recruited 26 healthy social drinkers (18 men, 8 women), 18 to 30 years of age, from the Montreal area. The higher-risk subjects were then identified based on personality traits and having a lower intoxication response to alcohol (they did not feel as drunk despite having drunk the same amount). Finally, each participant underwent two positron emission tomography (PET) brain scan exams after drinking either juice or alcohol (about 3 drinks in 15 minutes).

"We found that people vulnerable to developing alcoholism experienced an unusually large brain dopamine response when they took a drink," said Leyton. "This large response might energize reward-seeking behaviors and counteract the sedative effects of alcohol. Conversely, people who experience minimal dopamine release when they drink might find the sedative effects of alcohol especially pronounced."

"Although preliminary, the results are compelling," said Dr. Leyton. "A much larger body of research has identified a role for dopamine in reward-seeking behaviors in general. For example, in both laboratory animals and people, increased dopamine transmission seems to enhance the attractiveness of reward-related stimuli. This effect likely contributes to why having one drink increases the probability of getting a second one -- the alcohol-induced dopamine response makes the second drink look all the more desirable. If some people are experiencing unusually large dopamine responses to alcohol, this might put them at risk."

"People with loved ones struggling with alcoholism often want to know two things: How did they develop this problem? And what can be done to help? Our study helps us answer the first question by furthering our understanding of the causes of addictions. This is an important step toward developing treatments and preventing the disorder in others."

This study was funded by McGill University and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Elaine Setiawan, Robert O. Pihl, Alain Dagher, Hera Schlagintweit, Kevin F. Casey, Chawki Benkelfat, Marco Leyton. Differential Striatal Dopamine Responses Following Oral Alcohol in Individuals at Varying Risk for Dependence. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/acer.12218

Cite This Page:

McGill University. "Alcoholism could be linked to a hyper-active brain dopamine system." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130802131843.htm>.
McGill University. (2013, August 2). Alcoholism could be linked to a hyper-active brain dopamine system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130802131843.htm
McGill University. "Alcoholism could be linked to a hyper-active brain dopamine system." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130802131843.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The brains of artists aren't really left-brain or right-brain, but rather have extra neural matter in visual and motor control areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
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

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