Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain region for resisting alcohol's allure found

Date:
April 2, 2014
Source:
University of Utah Health Sciences
Summary:
When a region of the brain called the lateral habenula is chronically inactivated in rats, they repeatedly drink to excess and are less able to learn from the experience, neuroscientists report. The study has implications for understanding behaviors that drive alcohol addiction. "If we can understand the brain circuits that control sensitivity to alcohol's aversive effects, then we can start to get a handle on who may become a problem drinker," said the lead researcher.

University of Utah neuroscientists find that a brain region called the lateral habenula is involved in resisting the temptation of alcohol.
Credit: Andrew Haack

As recovering spring breakers are regretting binge drinking escapades, it may be hard for them to appreciate that there is a positive side to the nausea, sleepiness, and stumbling. University of Utah neuroscientists report that when a region of the brain called the lateral habenula is chronically inactivated in rats, they repeatedly drink to excess and are less able to learn from the experience. The study, published online in PLOS ONE on April 2, has implications for understanding behaviors that drive alcohol addiction.

Related Articles


While complex societal pressures contribute to alcoholism, physiological factors are also to blame. Alcohol is a drug of abuse, earning its status because it tickles the reward system in the brain, triggering the release of feel-good neurotransmitters. The dreaded outcomes of overindulging serve the beneficial purpose of countering the pull of temptation, but little is understood about how those mechanisms are controlled.

U of U professor of neurobiology and anatomy Sharif Taha, Ph.D. and colleagues, tipped the balance that reigns in addictive behaviors by inactivating in rats a brain region called the lateral habenula. When the rats were given intermittent access to a solution of 20% alcohol over several weeks, they escalated their alcohol drinking more rapidly, and drank more heavily than control rats.

"In people, escalation of intake is what eventually separates a social drinker from someone who becomes an alcoholic," said Taha. "These rats drink amounts that are quite substantial. Legally they would be drunk if they were driving."

The lateral habenula is activated by bad experiences, suggesting that without this region the rats may drink more because they fail to learn from the negative outcomes of overindulging. The investigators tested the idea by giving the rats a desirable, sweet juice then injecting them with a dose of alcohol large enough to cause negative effects.

"It's the same kind of learning that mediates your response in food poisoning. You taste something and then you get sick, and then of course you avoid that food in future meals," explained Taha.

Yet rats with an inactivated lateral habenula sought out the juice more than control animals, even though it meant a repeat of the bad experience.

"The way I look at it is the rewarding effects of drinking alcohol compete with the aversive effects," explained Andrew Haack, who is co-first author on the study with Chandni Sheth, both neuroscience graduate students. "When you take the aversive effects away, which is what we did when we inactivated the lateral habenula, the rewarding effects gain more purchase, and so it drives up drinking behavior."

The group's findings may help explain results from previous clinical investigations demonstrating that men who were less sensitive to the negative effects of alcohol drank more heavily, and were more likely to become problem drinkers later in life.

The researches think the lateral habenula likely works in one of two ways. The region may regulate how badly an individual feels after over-drinking. Alternatively, it may control how well an individual learns from their bad experience. Future work will resolve between the two.

"If we can understand the brain circuits that control sensitivity to alcohol's aversive effects, then we can start to get a handle on who may become a problem drinker," said Taha.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew K. Haack, Chandni Sheth, Andrea L. Schwager, Michael S. Sinclair, Shashank Tandon, Sharif A. Taha. Lesions of the Lateral Habenula Increase Voluntary Ethanol Consumption and Operant Self-Administration, Block Yohimbine-Induced Reinstatement of Ethanol Seeking, and Attenuate Ethanol-Induced Conditioned Taste Aversion. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (4): e92701 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092701

Cite This Page:

University of Utah Health Sciences. "Brain region for resisting alcohol's allure found." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402211942.htm>.
University of Utah Health Sciences. (2014, April 2). Brain region for resisting alcohol's allure found. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402211942.htm
University of Utah Health Sciences. "Brain region for resisting alcohol's allure found." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402211942.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. 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:

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