Scientists have been trying for many years to pinpoint how alcohol affects the brain in hopes of developing drugs to help people who try to stop drinking.
If we learn which chemical changes take place in the brain through the consumption of alcohol, we can theoretically develop antagonists that block the effects of alcohol and make drinking no longer pleasant.
Some researchers believe they have found a cellular mechanism that underlies the behavioral and motivational effects of alcohol that, if blocked, can stop the effects of alcohol on the brain.If youIf you
The pleasure centers of the brain
The focus of this research was on the amygdala, part of the circuits in the pleasure centers of the brain. For years, researchers have known that alcohol creates much of its intoxicating effects by supporting a specific neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).If youIf you
GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain and is widespread in the brain. Neurons use GABA to optimize signal transmission throughout the nervous system.
Several studies on alcohol use disorders have shown that GABA activity in the pleasure center of the brain decreases during alcohol withdrawal and during prolonged periods of abstinence after stopping alcohol consumption – this is the time when an alcoholic is particularly prone to relapse.If youIf you
The researchers believe the changes in GABA activity in the amygdala during the initial post-acute phase of withdrawal are a major cause of relapses in people treated for alcoholism.If youIf you
CRF peptide linked to alcohol addiction
In an attempt to identify exactly how alcohol affects GABA receptor function, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute discovered that neurons exposed to alcohol release a brain peptide known as corticotropin releasing factor (CRF).If youA peptide is a short chain of amino acids.
CRF is a very common peptide in the brain that is known to activate sympathetic and behavioral responses to stressors in the amygdala. It has long been linked to the brain’s response to stress, anxiety, and depression. CRF levels in the brain increase when alcohol is consumed.If youIf you
The effects of alcohol can be blocked
However, studies have shown that CKD levels also rise when animals withdraw from alcohol, which could explain why alcoholics are prone to relapse when trying to stay abstinent for long periods of time.If youIf you
Animal studies have shown that the effects of alcohol and CRF on GABA neurotransmission are lost when the CRF receptor is removed through genetic knockout.If youIf you
In the Scripps study, Professor George Siggins and colleagues in neuropharmacology found that alcohol had no effect when a CRF antagonist was used.If youIf you
“The antagonists not only blocked the effect of CRF in improving GABA transmission, but also the effects of alcohol,” says Siggins. “The answer was totally gone – alcohol didn’t do anything anymore.”
Another receptor involved?
Siggins believes that developing a drug to block the effects of CRF, and thus alcohol, on the pleasure centers of the brain could help alcoholics trying to stop drinking avoid relapse.If youIf you
A later study at the V.A. The Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina found that CKD and the kappa opioid receptor (KOR) are both implicated in stress-related behaviors and drug addiction.If youIf you
The North Carolina researchers suggested that potential drugs for behavioral and addiction disorders may need to affect both the CRF and KOR systems.