- The reward and stress systems of the brain are closely interconnected.
- The euphoria caused by 'normal' drinking is associated with the release of stress hormones.
- Alcoholism, in contrast, may be associated with a dysfunctional stress response.
- Some alcoholics may drink to relieve the prolonged elevation of the stress hormone cortisol.
The brain's reward and stress systems are closely interconnected, both anatomically and functionally. For example, the euphoric response to alcohol that most people experience is related to the release of stress hormones, whereas a dysfunctional stress response may be associated with alcoholism. A study in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
has made two important findings related to this association. One, some recovering alcoholics with a lengthy abstinence may have a chronically subdued stress system. Two, their systems are hypersensitive to a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is a key player in the body's stress response. The implication is that some alcoholics will respond differently than non-alcoholics to stressful situations that involve the brain's serotonin system.
Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that influences most functions, including general motor activity, learning and memory, reproduction, the stress response, sleep, and food intake. Disturbances in serotonergic activity have been linked with numerous behavioral disorders, including alcoholism, drug abuse and depression. Fenfluramine is a drug formerly used to treat appetite disorders by increasing serotonin activity in the brain. In this study, fenfluramine was given to recovering alcoholics in order to cause an acute increase of serotonin activity. This, in turn, is believed to cause increased activity in the limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (LHPA) axis - an inter-connected system of brain structures and hormone-producing organs that becomesPage: 1 2 3 4 Related biology news :1
Contact: Robert M. Anthenelli, M.D.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
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