One of the enigmas and fundamental aspect of alcoholism is that only a minority of alcohol users develop the disease. This seemed to have no solution, but now everything could change thanks to the fact that a group of researchers from the University of Linköping in Sweden claims to have discovered the neural mechanism that causes alcoholism.
Scientists identified an unknown mechanism and this could be a key finding for developing new treatments for alcoholism. The study revealing the discovery of this neuronal mechanism that causes alcoholism was published in the journal Science Advances. Such a discovery was made through experimentation with rats, where they placed 60 of them in different containers and put a pond with alcohol which gave a ration by pressing a lever. The rodents learned how to get the alcohol and after a while, the researchers changed the rules because weeks later the rats received electric shocks when they received it.
Most of the rats stopped pressing the lever but this measure did not work for a third; The researchers subsequently set about finding the neuronal mechanism that causes alcoholism. To achieve this, they developed and used a neural sensor that detected the parts of the brain that were active during alcohol intake. With this they found a network of active cells in various places in the brain, where the axis of the network was the central amygdala. Thus they demonstrated, this would be the neuronal mechanism that causes alcoholism and they also affirmed with this discovery; they could turn the behavior on and off by manipulating this part of the brain.
Knowing this neuronal mechanism that causes alcoholism raises hope to develop new pharmacological treatments and thus lessen the great impact of this disease on society. According to the World Health Organization each year more than 3 million people die as a result of alcoholism, this is equivalent to 5% of world mortality. In addition to death, alcoholism brings with it different consequences for health and the National Center for the Prevention of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion of the United States lists high blood pressure as one of them. Also, to strokes, digestive problems, cirrhosis, breast cancer, mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon and rectum. Likewise, dementia, depression, anxiety, and poor intellectual performance are on the institution’s list.
It is estimated that there are 237 million men and 46 million women worldwide who suffer from alcoholism and have found no cure. The discovery of this neuronal mechanism that causes alcoholism could generate new alternatives and preventive measures; Martin Landray, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, commented on this. “The ability to curb the search for alcohol in people with a higher risk of developing addiction should be strengthened. This is not only achieved by working with their behavior but also by developing drugs that target the neural mechanisms behind the behavior,” adds Landray. Researchers are currently experimenting with different substances to counteract alcohol addiction and hope to find various enzymes and develop new treatments soon.