Scripps scientists describe dangerous cocktail of alcohol, brain peptides, and neurotransmitters

A team of scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has described the cellular mechanism underlying the brain's response to alcohol, which suggests a possible method for treating alcoholism.

This work, published in the latest issue of the journal Science, ties together the effect of the brain peptide corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) with alcohol. Both appear to influence neurotransmission in the amygdala, the so-called pleasure center of the brain, by increasing the transmission of one particular neurotransmitter called gamma amino butyric acid (GABA).

"There is a strong relationship between drugs of abuse, stress, and the amygdala," says Neuropharmacology Professor George Siggins, who led the research.

The research suggests that compounds that block CRF receptors might be a potential new therapeutic for alcoholics, who struggle to stop drinking.

Drugs that block CRF receptors are already being looked at by scientists as potential treatments for other psychiatric conditions such as depression, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder--conditions that also involve CRF in the amygdala.

The Scourge of Alcoholism

Of all potential substances of abuse, alcohol is one of the most readily available in American society. It is regularly or occasionally consumed by nearly two-thirds of all American adults, and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that four-fifths of U.S. adults have been regular or occasional drinkers at one time.

Despite its widespread use and reputation as "social lubricant," alcohol extracts a heavy toll on society. Drunk driving, for instance, is a major scourge in the United States--about a third of the approximately 40,000 traffic fatalities every year involve drunk drivers. Tens of thousands more Americans die each year from alcohol poisoning, and from alcohol-re

Contact: Jason Bardi
Scripps Research Institute

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