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Brain’s immune system affects the drinking behavior at night, suggests study

The team switched off the impulse to drink alcohol by giving mice a drug that blocks a specific response from the immune system in the brain

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Drinking behavior can alter risk of developing cancer. Pixabay
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  • Brain’s immunity has been found to affect one’s drinking behavior at night
  • The team switched off the impulse to drink alcohol by giving mice a drug
  • A significant reduction in the mice’s alcohol drinking behavior was reported 

New Delhi, September 17, 2017: Love to drown yourself in a peg of whiskey each evening? It may be due to impulsiveness of the brain’s immune system, according to a study.

The findings showed a link between the brain’s immunity and the motivation to drink alcohol at night.

This may be because our body’s circadian rhythms affect the “reward” signals we receive in the brain from drug-related behaviour and the peak time for this reward typically occurs during the evening or dark phase, the researchers said.

“Alcohol is the world’s most commonly consumed drug and there is a greater need than ever to understand the biological mechanisms that drive our need to drink alcohol,” said lead author Jon Jacobsen, PhD student at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

Also readMerry-making and Drinking can be Dangerous: Celebratory Firing leaves Trail of Deaths Weddings in Punjab

“We wanted to test what the role of the brain’s immune system might have on that reward and whether or not we could switch it off,” Jacobsen added.

In the study, published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, the team switched off the impulse to drink alcohol by giving mice a drug that blocks a specific response from the immune system in the brain.

The researchers administered the drug (+)-Naltrexone, which is known to block the immune receptor Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) in mice.

The results showed a significant reduction in alcohol drinking behaviour by mice that had been given (+)-Naltrexone, specifically at night when the reward for drug-related behaviour is usually at its greatest.

“We concluded that blocking a specific part of the brain’s immune system did in fact substantially decrease the motivation of mice to drink alcohol in the evening,” Jacobsen said.

These findings point to the need for further research to understand the implications for drinking behaviour in humans, the researchers noted. (IANS)

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What Causes Alcohol Addiction?

The team analysed GAT-3 levels in brain tissue from deceased humans who had documented alcohol addiction

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What Causes Alcohol Addiction?
What Causes Alcohol Addiction? (IANS)

Molecular mechanisms including lower levels of a protein in the brain may be the reason why addicts choose alcohol over an alternative reward, finds a study that may help improve treatment for alcohol dependence.

The study suggested that the level of a transporter protein GAT-3, situated in the amygdala region of the brain — responsible for emotional reactions — was lower among the alcohol addicts.

“We have to understand that a core feature of addiction is that you know it is going to harm you, potentially even kill you, and nevertheless something has gone wrong with the motivational control and you keep doing it,” said Markus Heilig from the Linkoping University in Sweden.

In the study, published in the journal Science, the team used a mouse model to measure the expression of hundreds of genes in five areas of the brain.

What Causes Alcohol Addiction?
Alcoholic beverages. Pixabay

The team investigated the role of reduced GAT-3 levels in rats that initially preferred sweetened water over alcohol. After the reduction, they were again presented with the choice between alcohol and sugar.

They found that 15 per cent of the outbred rats chose alcohol over a high-value reward.

Also Read: US Cancels A Planned Alcohol Study Over Trust Issues

“Decreasing the expression of the transporter had a striking effect on the behaviour of these rats. Animals that had preferred the sweet taste over alcohol reversed their preference and started choosing alcohol,” said lead investigator Eric Augier.

Further, the team analysed GAT-3 levels in brain tissue from deceased humans who had documented alcohol addiction. They found lower levels of the protein in them than in the control individuals. (IANS)

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