The tendency to alcoholism, as happens in addictions in general, needs a number of contributing factors (no more risk of drinking much, and more). In its day we talked about the ” gene of alcoholism “, which makes us more inclined to drink addiction . Today we will be a little more specific thanks to the new discovery of researchers from the University of Texas , whose work appeared recently in the Journal of Neuroscience : The group of neurons responsible for alcoholism.
The neurons responsible for alcohol addiction
The research, led by Jun Wang and colleagues, has concluded that alcohol consumption alters the structure and function of neurons located in the dorsomedial striatum, a key brain zone in conducted behaviors, and a finding Important in the fight against alcoholism.
“Alcoholism is a very common disease, but its mechanism is not understood very well”
In order to understand this mechanism, Wang and his team have used an animal model in which they have succeeded in determining how alcoholism actually changes the physical structure of a particular group of neurons, the middle spiny neurons , which is the type of neuron Key of the striatum. These are neurons in the form of arbo, with many ramifications and many small protuberances or thorns. In these neurons we find two types of dopamine receptors , D1 or D2 . D1 neurons are “activators”, while D2 neurons are “inhibitory” behavior (ie D1s incite to do something, and D2 urges us to stop).
It is important to have clear both types of spiny neurons and their relationship to dopamine, as this neurotransmitter is key in addiction, but dopamine receptors were not as well studied as the neurotransmitter itself. We now know that the D1 receptor or “activator” would play an important role, as the team detected that the periodic consumption of large amounts of alcohol acts on the D1 neurons, making them much more excitable, and consequently, they are activated with less and less stimulation .
“If D1 neurons are excited, we tend to drink alcohol, like a craving. That is, when neuronal D1 receptors are activated, they force us to perform an action, like looking for another bottle of alcohol in this case. It creates a cycle where activation is becoming easier, and the stimulus of action is increasingly powerful “
Subcellular changes in the brain caused by alcoholism
Changes in D1 neurons would also cause physical changes in spiny neurons as a result of alcoholism , which would ramify and mature more and more.
For its part, the placebo group of the non-alcohol exposed study tended to produce immature versions of these spines in brain D1 neurons. The total number of spines did not vary between exposed and non-alcohol exposed groups, but the relationship between maturity and immature spines was dramatically different between the alcoholism group and the placebo group, which could have major implications for factors such as Alteration of memory and learning in addictions.
“When you drink alcohol, long-term memory is greater, but this memory process is not useful; In fact, underlies the addiction, because they affect the neurons D1 or activadoras “
D2 or inhibitory neurons were not affected by alcoholism, so it was concluded that the relationship was specific between alcoholism and D1 neurons .
To conclude, another of the things that the researchers detected is that the animal models of the alcoholism group also tended to consume larger amounts of alcohol if they were given the option . That is, the greater excitement on the part of the D1 neurons would not only cause us to consume alcohol, but to curl the rich, the amounts of alcohol would be much larger, collaborating in the vicious circle of this addiction.
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