In a recent issue of The Journal of Neuroscience,
a study revealed findings based on other studies indicating that the frequent use of alcohol
can activate specific groups of neurons. The more a person drinks, the more the neuron circuit is activated, which then prompts more drinking. However, the findings from the new study postulate a different study.
The study aims to identify if there is a way to influence certain neurons that make-up the circuit. Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), with Professor Olivier George leading the study, based the findings from experiments on lab rats. In both humans and rats, the neurons only make up five percent of the neurons in the brain's central amygdala.
The experiment used lab rat models of alcohol dependence
wherein a special protein will only distinguish the neurons that are activated by alcohol. The rats were then given a compound wherein it can inactivate only alcohol-linked neurons.
TSRI Research Associate Giordano de Guglielmo, who spearheaded the experiment, was surprised with the results. The rats stopped their compulsive drinking for as long as they were monitored. “We've never seen an effect that strong that has lasted for several weeks,” said George in a news item
. “I wasn't sure if I believed it.”
The experiment ran 3 times and each time, the rats ceased drinking alcohol. However, when given sugar water, the rats were motivated to drink which shows that the researchers had targeted only alcohol-linked neurons and not the entire reward system. The rats also did not exhibit any withdrawal symptoms.
The researchers hope to track the formation of alcohol-activated neuronal circuits and to find a way to be able to transcend the work of humans.