Scientists have indicated a part that develops and induces the compulsion to keep on taking alcohol which leads to alcoholism.
Jun Wang, M.D., Ph.D., the lead author on the paper and an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the Texas A&M College of Medicine published their paper in the Journal of Neuroscience. According to Jun, alcoholism is a disease that consumes thousands of lives everyday. The solution to finding the cure is finding the cause.
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The researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine may have found the cause. They found out that alcohol consumption alters the structure and function of neurons in the dorsomedial striatum. It is a part of the brain known to be important in goal-driven behaviors. The findings could be an important step towards creation of a drug to combat alcoholism.
“Alcoholism is a very common disease,” said Jun Wang, M.D., Ph.D., the lead author on the paper and an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, “but the mechanism is not understood very well.”
The team used an animal model. They determined that alcohol actually changes the physical structure of medium spiny neurons. Those are the main type of cells in the striatum. The neurons are branch-like structures with various protrusions.
These protrusions each have one of the two types of dopamine receptors, D1 or D2. The neurotransmitter dopamine's involvement in addiction is well known. The researchers explained that D1 neurons are informally called part of a “go” pathway in the brain, while D2 neurons are in the “no-go” pathway.
In other words, when D2 neurons are activated, they discourage action. That explained 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.
The excitation of these neurons leads to craving. They lead us to consume more alcohol by taking action and causing more drinking. These changes in activation of D1 neurons might be related to the physical changes happening at the sub-cellular level in brains that have been exposed to alcohol. They have longer branching and more of the mature, mushroom-shaped spines than their abstaining counterparts.
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Thus the researchers believe that the stimulation of these neurons actually lead the person to develop memory for action. This action is not necessarily provident. However, the non-development of their counterparts due to alcohol consumption may also be a lead in finding the causes.