Since ages scientists have been trying to decipher the profound effects of alcohol on a person’s thought, mood and behavior, as well as the changes that take place in the brain that leads to dependence and addiction in certain people. The advancements in the field of neuroscience have enabled scientists and researchers to decipher these changes due to alcohol that leads to intoxication, dependence and eventually an addiction.
In a person bereft of addictive behaviors, the brain maintains a delicate balance of chemicals called neurotransmitters that communicate with other molecules and help to regulate the key functions and behaviors. This equilibrium gets damaged due to alcohol addiction and thereby leads to dysfunctional behavioral patterns.
The impairment of the brain due to increased dependence on alcohol leads to drowsiness, loss of coordination and euphoria. It becomes almost impossible for a person to break free of the vicious cycle due to his or her adaptation to such chemical changes. In fact, people indulging in heavy or excessive drinking start responding to alcohol differently from others due to increased tolerance and insensitivity.
Alterations in complex communication mechanism of brain lead to addiction
The brain primarily communicates through a conglomerate of electrical and chemical signals. The entire mechanism of communication is quite complicated and complex in nature and the intrusion of an addictive substance like alcohol can wreak havoc. Alcohol slows the transmission of such signals and manifests in the form of symptoms, such as sleepiness and sedation, which indicate alcohol intoxication.
Unfortunately, there is no “magic pill” for treating alcohol addiction and the related problems as some people respond well to certain medications while others do not. However, scientists are constantly in search for innovative ways of treating alcoholism based on the new findings that may throw light on the complex mechanism of addiction in the human brains and bodies. Many of the existing medications have evolved to target the actions of the key neurotransmitters by interfering in their activities or imitating them to alter the short-term or long-term effects of alcohol.
How reward centers in brain can help treat addiction
One of the studies published in the journal Biological Psychiatry was able to identify two pathways in the reward center of the brain that can be manipulated to treat alcohol addiction. Since alcohol-induced changes in the signaling of these pathways lead to the problems related to drinking, treatments targeting these pathways play a crucial role in achieving sobriety. These pathways include the dorsal striatum.
While one of the pathways that encourage behaviors that are rewarding in nature is referred to as the “Go” pathway, the other pathway that inhibits such behaviors is referred to as the “No-Go” pathway. These pathways were found to be responding to the signals from alcohol-induced adjustments that lead to alcohol abuse and addiction.
During the study, mice were subjected to the repeated cycles of consumption and withdrawal of 20 percent of alcohol (marginally higher than the average alcohol content in a glass of wine). The recordings of the activity of brain cells in the reward center revealed that the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter of the brain known as the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) signaling was actively suppressing the no-go pathway while the excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain was actively boosting the go pathway by increasing glutamate signaling.
The researchers confirmed that the manipulation of the cells specific to each pathway could imitate either increased glutamatergic activity or GABAergic activity. This leads to inhibition of cells in the no-go pathway and excitation of the cells in the go pathway that promote alcohol consumption. Apparently, any of these modifications is adequate to encourage alcohol consumption.
Deeper research into the mechanism establishes the fact that the activation of the dopamine D2 receptors that mediate the no-go pathway leads to a reduction in GABAergic activity along with alcohol consumption. Thus, the impacts in the dorsal striatum of the brain reinforce the consumption of alcohol to pathologically excessive levels.
Research revives hope for better treatment
These findings give an insight into the untapped potential of neuroscience in treating or curing addiction by manipulating the pathways in the brain. These studies have enabled medical practitioners in targeting the key areas of the brain that can assist patients in accelerating the process of recovery from substance abuse.
If you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol and is looking for alcohol addiction treatment centers in the U.S., contact the Alcohol Addiction Get Help Helpline. Call our 24/7 helpline 866-281-3014 or chat online to know about some of the finest alcohol addiction treatment centers in your vicinity.