Jeff Weiner, who directs the Translational Studies on Early-Life Stress and Vulnerability to Alcohol Addiction project at Wake Forest Baptist, and colleagues used an animal model to look at the early stages of the addiction process and focused on how individual animals responded towards alcohol.
Weiner said that their findings may lead not only to a better understanding of addiction, but to the development of better drugs to treat it as well.
Weiner said that the study protocol was developed by the first author of the paper, Karina Abrahao, a graduate student visiting from the collaborative lab of Sougza-Formigoni, Ph.D, of the Department of Psychobiology at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
"In high doses, alcohol is a depressant, but in low doses, it can have a mellowing effect that results in greater activity," Weiner said.
"Those low dose effects tend to increase over time and this increase in activity in response to repeated alcohol exposure is called locomotor sensitization."
"We found large variations in the development of locomotor sensitization to alcohol in these mice, with some showing robust sensitization and others showing no more of a change in locomotor activity than control mice given daily saline injections," he asserted.
"Surprisingly, when all of the alcohol-exposed mice were given an opportunity to voluntarily drink alcohol, those that had developed sensitization drank more than those that did not. In fact, the alcohol-treated mice that failed to develop sensitization drank no more alcohol than the saline-treated control group," he added.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.