Key brain mechanism in transition to alcohol dependence have been discovered by scientists. This finding would pave way in developing drugs to manage excessive alcohol consumption.
"Our focus in this study, like much of our lab's research, was to examine the role of the brain's stress system in compulsive alcohol drinking driven by the aversive aspects of alcohol withdrawal," said Scripps Research Associate Professor Marisa Roberto.
"A major goal for this study was to determine the neural circuitry that mediates the transition to alcohol dependence," Research Associate Nicholas Gilpin added.
Researchers have linked the role of neuropeptide Y and the amygdale in determining alcohol dependence. The amygdala, a group of nuclei deep within the medial temporal lobes performs an important role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions.
"We've known for quite some time that neuropeptide Y is an endogenous [naturally occurring] anti-stress agent," said Markus Heilig, clinical director of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
"We've also known that development of alcohol dependence gives rise to increased sensitivity to stress. This paper elegantly and logically brings these two lines of research together. It supports the idea that strengthening neuropeptide Y transmission in the amygdala would be an attractive treatment for alcoholism." he added.
Researchers observed the effects of the administration neuropeptide Y in the central amygdala on alcohol drinking in rats.
"Normally, the transition to alcohol dependence is accompanied by gradually escalating levels of alcohol consumption during daily withdrawals," Gilpin explained.
From the results, researchers reported a suppression of alcohol consumption with chronic neuropeptide Y infusions and attributed it to some neurocircuitry involved.
The study is published in the current issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry.