People who are vulnerable to developing alcoholism exhibit a distinctive brain response when drinking alcohol, says a new study.
Compared to people at low risk for alcohol-use problems, those at high risk showed a greater dopamine response in a brain pathway that increases desire for rewards, according to a new study by Prof. Marco Leyton, of McGill University's Department of Psychiatry.
These findings could help shed light on why some people are more at risk of suffering from alcoholism and could mark an important step toward the development of treatment options.
"There is accumulating evidence that there are multiple pathways to alcoholism, each associated with a distinct set of personality traits and neurobiological features", Prof. Leyton, a researcher in the Mental Illness and Addiction axis at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), said.
"These individual differences likely influence a wide range of behaviors, both positive and problematic. Our study suggests that a tendency to experience a large dopamine response when drinking alcohol might contribute to one (or more) of these pathways," he said.
The study is published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.