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Alcohol researchers find genetic locus of human brain wave

Bernice Porjesz, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, State University of New York, Health Sciences Center at Brooklyn, and others from six of the nine universities that comprise NIAAA's Collaborative Study of the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) report in today's online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (99[6]:3729-3733) significant linkage and linkage disequilibrium between beta brain wave (EEG) frequency and a cluster of gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptor genes on human chromosome 4. Conducted in the laboratory of COGA Principal Investigator Dr. Henri Begleiter, the study is coauthored by Laura Almasy, Ph.D., Howard J. Edenberg, Ph.D., and Theodore Reich, Ph.D., among others.

"Drs. Porjesz and Begleiter are the first to find a specific genetic locus associated with fundamental human brain oscillations. Their work contributes to understanding of brain neuroelectric activity and expedites our search for alcoholism risk and protective genes," said NIAAA Acting Director Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D.

Since the 1929 discovery of the human electroencephalogram (EEG), scientists have measured brain electrical activity, displayed as undulating lines with "peaks" and "valleys" called waves. Oscillations in these waves represent important features of information processing and are highly heritable. Beta EEG frequency, elevated in alcoholics and their alcohol-nave offspring, for some years has been regarded as a possible marker of alcoholism susceptibility. While its specific functional role is not yet defined, beta wave oscillation reflects heightened activity of the underlying neuronal network, scientists believe.

Activity of GABAA, the primary receptor subtype of the inhibitory brain neurotransmitter GABA, is responsible for nerve cell inhibition throughout the brain. Mounting evidence from human and animal studies implicates GABAA in the development of tolerance to and dependence on alcohol and in genetic lia
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Contact: Ann Bradley
301-443-0595
NIH/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
12-Mar-2002


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