Alcoholic's Adversary: Study Pinpoints Brain Molecule That Is Key For Alcohol Preference And Sensitivity

WASHINGTON, D.C. October 20 -- For the first time, animal research clearly demonstrates that a brain element known to produce pleasure, the D2 dopamine receptor, plays a critical role in alcohol consumption.

"These results are important because they provide a reason for renewed interest in developing treatments that involve D2 dopamine receptors for alcoholism," says lead author of the study, Tamara Phillips, PhD, of Oregon Health Sciences University and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland. "If a drug could be developed that specifically blocks these receptors without having adverse side-effects, it might hold promise for reducing alcohol drinking."

Phillips' study, funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is published in the November issue of Nature Neuroscience.

"It has been very difficult to characterize the mechanisms that make alcohol habit-forming, but this study adds significantly to the accumulating evidence that has suggested a role for the dopamine systems, already known to play a role in habit-forming properties of heroin and cocaine," says Roy Wise, PhD, an addiction expert at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "The finding is important because it shows that there are some important similarities between the mechanisms of addictions for different drugs."

The idea that the brain chemical dopamine and its receptors, the receiving areas where it carries out its actions, are involved in alcohol addiction has been controversial. For example, early reports suggested that people carrying one form of the dopamine D2 receptor gene were at higher risk for the development of alcoholism than were individuals carrying a different form of the gene. Other studies did not confirm this finding. "Our results, however, clearly suggest that the dopamine D2 receptor plays a critical role in det

Contact: Leah Ariniello
Society for Neuroscience

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