According to a recent article by Science Daily, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center recently conducted an alcoholism study that may help reveal what causes some individuals to be at higher risk for alcoholism. Wake Forest Baptist Professor of physiology and pharmacology, Jeff Weiner, Ph.D, and his team studied the early stages of alcohol addiction in mice. Dr. Weiner believes, “[the]…findings may lead not only to a better understanding of addiction, but to the development of better drugs to treat the disease.”
The Alcoholism Study
The Wake Forest Baptist study focused on identifying differences between how individual mice responded to alcohol exposure. To ensure the relevance of the experiment, Dr. Weiner’s team bred mice to be as genetically diverse as possible. The mice were then divided into different groups. One group was given alcohol for three weeks while the others were left alone as a control group.
The Study Results
Some of the mice that received alcohol showed increased sensitivity to the drug while others showed no change. According to the study, “when all of the alcohol-exposed mice were given an opportunity to voluntarily drink alcohol, those that had developed sensitization drank more than those that did not. In fact, the alcohol-treated mice that failed to develop sensitization drank no more alcohol than the … control group.”
In hopes of uncovering what caused some of the mice to develop a greater sensitivity to alcohol, the team followed up their experiment with a series of neurobiological tests. The neurobiological test results revealed that the mice that were sensitive to alcohol also had brain neuroplasticity issues. Brain neuroplasticity refers to the way in which ours brain records and calls upon experiences. According to Dr. Weiner, “What this suggests for the first time in the alcohol addiction field is that this particular deficit may represent an important brain correlate of vulnerability to alcoholism. It’s a testable hypothesis. That’s why I think it’s an important finding.” In essence, Dr. Weiner’s study makes it possible to test the theory that an inability to properly process experiences may cause some individuals to be more sensitive to alcohol.
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