A genetic variant of a receptor in the brain’s reward circuitry heightens the stimulating effects of early exposures to alcohol and increases alcohol consumption, according to a new study by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Conducted in rhesus monkeys, the study extends previous research that suggests an important role for a similar brain receptor variant in the development of human alcohol use disorders. A report of the findings is published in the March, 2007 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Molecules known as opioid peptides bind to opioid receptors in the brain to signal experiences of reward and reinforcement, as well as the euphoria and other positive subjective effects produced by alcohol. Previous studies have shown that, among the brain’s various subtypes of opioid receptors, the mu-subtype is most likely responsible for transmitting alcohol’s positive effects.
NIAAA Press Office
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