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Blocking selected neurotransmitter activity may decrease alcohol consumption

  • Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a neurotransmitter that is integral to neurobiological functions such as anxiety, pain, memory and feeding behaviors.
  • Researchers have found that a compound that blocks NPY activity decreases both the onset as well as the repetition of alcohol consumption.
  • These findings have important implications for the treatment of both alcohol abuse and dependence.

Peptides are a class of neurotransmitters, chemicals used by brain cells to communicate with each other. Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is the most abundant and widely distributed peptide, and is involved in a variety of neurobiological functions, including anxiety, pain, memory, and feeding behavior. Although previous animal research has implicated NPY systems in alcohol abuse and alcoholism, findings published in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research are the first to show that a compound that blocks NPY activity may be useful for alcohol treatment.

"NPY is the most potent stimulant of feeding behavior known," explained Clyde W. Hodge, associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and corresponding author for the study. "For example, the primary brain region involved in control of eating is the hypothalamus. Animal studies have shown that repeated treatment of the hypothalamus with NPY produces dietary obesity in otherwise normal rats. We suspect that alcohol may usurp brain systems that evolved to perform other functions, such as eating, because these neural systems evolved long before humans discovered alcoholic beverages. Alcohol and drug abuse, therefore, can be considered disorders of consumption."

"Since NPY is a signal molecule, it produces its effects via several NPY receptors in the brain, such as the NPY-Y5 receptors," added Subhash C. Pandey, associate professor and director of Neuroscience Alcoholism Research in the departme
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14-Dec-2003


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