Scientists Use Animal Models To Reverse Alcohol Dependence Addiction can rewire the brains of people in such a way that cravings continue to haunt them until offset by treatment or some other external method. Amid all the techniques used to counter cravings in people addicted to alcohol, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) came up with a new method to check alcoholism which is based on the idea that there may be a way to switch off the urge for compulsive drinking. “We can completely reverse alcohol dependence by targeting a network of neurons,” said the lead author of the study Olivier George, an Assistant Professor at TSRI. The study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience in September 2016, is based on the premise that frequent alcohol use can activate specific groups of neurons. The more a person drinks, the greater is the reinforcement and activation in the neural circuit, driving one to more alcohol use and addiction. It seems the brain carves a special path between alcohol and reward, forging a stronger connect. Zeroed in on only alcohol-activated neurons The researchers used an animal model for their study to ascertain whether there is a way to influence only the select neurons that form these circuits. These neurons are similar in humans and rats and makeup only about 5 percent of the neurons in the brain’s central amygdala. The model provided the researchers a potential new window into how these circuits form in human brains, where it is harder to pick the alcohol-linked neurons without the use of protein labels (special protein to distinguish only the neurons activated by alcohol). They injected the rats with a compound that could specifically inactivate only alcohol-linked neurons. The researchers were startled to find that these rats completely ceased their compulsive alcohol drinking (it lasted till the rats were monitored). “We’ve never seen an effect that strong that has lasted for several weeks. I wasn’t sure if I believed it,” George said. The findings were not a mere fluke, as the researchers repeated the experiment several times and every time it showed the same outcome. The rats ceased compulsive drinking every time. “It’s like they forgot they were dependent,” George said. The researchers successfully managed to target only alcohol-activated neurons, not the brain’s overall reward system. It was evident from the fact that the rats were still motivated to drink sugar water.
The rats seemed to be protected from any negative physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal like shaking. Targeting neurons that produce cravings can help curb drinking The study findings also explained the differences in the brain between more casual binge drinking and addictive consumption. The researchers found that in non-dependent drinking rats, switching off the alcohol-linked neurons had no effect on future drinking. â€œIt is very challenging to target such a small population of neurons in the brain, but this study helps to increase our knowledge of a part of the brain that is still a mystery,â€? said de Guglielmo, first author of the study. Replicating the study findings on human models and people addicted to alcohol while treating them, would be a great step for clinicians. Successfully targeting the neurons which produce cravings could help curb drinking behavior in people. Recovery road map Addiction, be it to alcohol, marijuana or any illicit drug, is not the end of the road as it can be managed with timely intervention. Seeking help from the right quarters at the earliest is the best solution in addressing addiction. If you have a loved one addicted to drugs or alcohol, contact Sovereign Detox Services which treats every addiction with a holistic approach. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-682-0103 to know about natural detox in California. Whether it is our detox centers in California or rapid detox in California, we offer comprehensive treatment for every addiction.
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Published on Feb 16, 2017
Addiction can rewire the brains of people in such a way that cravings continue to haunt them until offset by treatment or some other externa...