A Cure For Addiction?


Straight from the Journal of Neuroscience.

There may be a way to switch off the urge for compulsive drinking, according to a new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute.

“We can completely reverse alcohol dependence by targeting a network of neurons”

Long story short, the National Institutes on Health (NIH) and on Drug Abuse (NIDA) sponsored these studies and the results tell us a number of things:

1. Yes, addiction is a brain disease
2. There are very specified circuitry of the brain that is responsible for it.

The findings, published in the September 7 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, built on previous studies showing that frequent alcohol use can activate specific groups of neurons. The more a person drinks, the more they reinforce activation in the neuronal “circuit,” which then drives further alcohol use and addiction. It appears that the brain carves a special pathway between alcohol and reward.
I refer to this specified path as “The Beast Brain” – All the pre-cognitive instincts that assure survival (the need to breathe, nourish, shelter, sleep, drink, and ensure the continuation of the species) are part of the Beast brain.

In lay terms, we are our own biochemistry. Certain chemicals in the brain reinforce something we do repeatedly. Addictions are the result of circuitry gone wrong, causing compulsive use (reward) despite negative consequences.

TSRI Research Associate Giordano de Guglielmo, who was the study’s first author, spearheaded the experiment using alcohol-dependent rats. They were able to discover, and then alter, a very specific collection of neurons that were activated by alcohol. The rats gave the researchers a new window into how these circuits form in human brains, where alcohol-linked neurons are harder to identify and then injected them with a compound that could were able to inactivate only alcohol-linked neurons.

RatsnETOH“I was surprised to see these rats completely cease their compulsive alcohol drinking,” a change that lasted for as long as the rats were monitored.

“We’ve never seen an effect this strong that has lasted for several weeks,” said George. “I wasn’t sure if I believed it.”

They also appeared to be protected from the negative physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as shaking.

The new research also shed light on the differences in the brain between more casual binge drinking and addictive consumption. In the rats that were drinkers but NOT addicted, switching off the alcohol-linked neurons had little effect on future drinking. In the non-addicted users, the brain seemed to switch-on a new group of neurons, as if the brain’s path from alcohol to reward was not established.

Edited for readability 

Source: “Recruitment of a Neuronal Ensemble in the Central Nucleus of the Amygdala is Required for Alcohol Dependence.”

Researchers included Elena Crawford, Sarah Kim, Leandro F. Vendruscolo, Molly Brennan and Maury Cole of TSRI; Bruce T. Hope of the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); and George F. Koob, currently on leave from TSRI to serve as director of the NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).  This study was supported by the NIH (grants AA006420, AA020608 and AA022977), the NIDA Intramural Research Program and the TSRI Pearson Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research.  Authors of the new paper include The Scripps Research Institute’s Olivier George (left) and Giordano de Guglielmo.  Title: Recruitment of a Neuronal Ensemble in the Central Nucleus of the Amygdala is Required for Alcohol Dependence, Journal of Neuroscience,  published September 7, 2016

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