Binge alcohol drinking is the practice of consuming large quantities of alcohol in a single session and is associated with many health problems including liver disease, nerve damage, sexual problems, cancer, malnutrition and high blood pressure. Researchers at University of North Carolina School have identified a naturally occurring compound in the brain, Neuropeptide Y (NPY), that can act to suppress binge alcohol drinking.
Thomas L. Kash, assistant professor in the departments of pharmacology and psychology and a member of UNC's Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, said, "We have found that NPY acted in a part of the brain known as the extended amygdala (or bed nucleus of the stria terminalis) that we know is linked to both stress and reward. This anti-drinking effect was due to increasing inhibition (the brakes) on a specific population of cells that produce a 'pro-drinking' molecule called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF)."
Todd E. Thiele, professor of psychology at UNC and a member of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, and study co-author said, "Identification of where in the brain and how NPY blunts binge drinking, and the observation that the NPY system was compromised during early binge drinking prior to the transition to dependence, were novel and important observations. These findings suggested that restoring NPY may not only be useful for treating alcohol use disorders, but may also protect some individuals from becoming alcohol dependent."
The study appears online in Nature Neuroscience