Washington DC: A new study has found the set of neurons responsible for alcohol consumption, suggesting that the cycle of alcoholism can be stopped.
The Texas A and M Health Science Center College of Medicine study found that alcohol consumption alters the structure and function of neurons in the dorsomedial striatum, a part of the brain known to be important in goal-driven behaviors. The findings could be an important step toward creation of a drug to combat alcoholism.
Lead author Jun Wang said that alcoholism is a very common disease, but the mechanism is not understood very well.
Using an animal model, the researchers determined that alcohol actually changes the physical structure of medium spiny neurons, the main type of cell in the striatum.
Although it is well known that the neurotransmitter dopamine is involved in addiction, this study goes further, showing that the dopamine D1 receptor also plays an important role in addiction. The team found that periodic consumption of large amounts of alcohol acts on D1 neurons, making them much more excitable, which means that they activate with less stimulation.
Wang added that his ultimate goal is to understand how the addicted brain works and once they do, one day, they'll be able to suppress the craving for another round of drinks and ultimately, stop the cycle of alcoholism.
The study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.