Thursday February 20, 2020

Stimulating Brain Cells Stops Binge Drinking

The researchers activated the dopamine neurons through a type of deep brain stimulation using a new technique called optogenetics

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In the experiments, rats were trained to drink alcohol in a way that mimics human binge-drinking behaviour. Pixabay

It is now possible to use gene therapy in the brain to not only treat binge drinking but other substance abuse, neurological diseases and mental illnesses.

Researchers at the University at Buffalo have found a way to change alcohol drinking behaviour in rodents, using the emerging technique of optogenetics – using light to stimulate neurons.

In the experiments, rats were trained to drink alcohol in a way that mimics human binge-drinking behaviour.

“By stimulating certain dopamine neurons in a precise pattern, resulting in low but prolonged levels of dopamine release, we could prevent the rats from binging. The rats just flat out stopped drinking,” said Caroline E. Bass, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Interestingly, the rodents continued to avoid alcohol even after the stimulation of neurons ended, Bass added.

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Representational image. Pixabay

The researchers activated the dopamine neurons through a type of deep brain stimulation using a new technique called optogenetics.

“Optogenetics allows you to stimulate only one type of neuron at a time,” said the study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

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“The results have application not only in understanding and treating alcohol-drinking behaviours in humans, but also in many devastating mental illnesses and neurological diseases that have a dopamine component,” said Bass.

The findings are the first to demonstrate a causal relationship between the release of dopamine in the brain and drinking behaviours of animals. (IANS)

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Aging Women Likely to Consume More Alcohol: Study

Women tend to drink more alcohol as they age

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Women aged 50-70 are more likely to consume alcohol than younger women, at levels that exceed low risk drinking guidelines. Pixabay

Women aged 50-70 are more likely to consume alcohol than younger women, at levels that exceed low risk drinking guidelines, according to a new health study.

The researchers found that despite the potential health risks of exceeding national drinking guidelines, many middle-aged and young-old women who consume alcoholic drinks at high risk levels tend to perceive their drinking as normal and acceptable, so long as they appear respectable and in control.

For the findings, published in the journal Sociology of Health & Illness, researchers at New Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia and Aalborg University in Denmark, investigated the social construction of alcohol use among 49 women aged 50 to 69 in Australia and Denmark.

Alcohol women
Many middle-aged and young-old women who consume alcohol at high risk levels tend to perceive their drinking as normal and acceptable, so long as they appear respectable and in control. Pixabay

“The research highlighted that respondents from both countries indicated that alcohol use among women their age was normal and acceptable,” said study lead author Julie Dare from ECU.

According to Australian health authorities, drinking more than two standard drinks on any day increases the risk considerably of premature death over a woman’s lifetime.

The researchers found that women place more importance on appearing to be in control, behaving respectably, social pleasure and feeling liberated than the quantity of alcohol consumed or potential health risks.

While some women reported reducing their drinking due to health concerns, others suggested that positive health behaviours such as exercise served to ‘neutralise’ related health risks.

According to the study, health advice and interventions relating to middle-aged and young-old women’s drinking practices need to acknowledge that women may socially construct their drinking practices to prioritise matters other than biomedical impacts of alcohol.

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While the study highlighted many similarities between Australian and Danish women, one interesting cultural difference was the way Australian women thought about alcohol in relation to stress.

“If the Australian women had some sort of distress in their lives they believed it was acceptable to drink. They were quite open about this saying ‘I just had a bad day, I needed to have a drink’,” Dare said. (IANS)