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Stimulating Brain Cells Could Stop Binge Drinking

Update Date: Jan 04, 2014 10:05 AM EST

A new study is reporting that stimulating brain cells can effectively stop binge drinking. According to the researchers from the University of Buffalo, when they administered light to stimulate the neurons of mice models, the mice were able to stop their binge drinking habits.

For this study, the researchers first trained the rats to drink alcohol until the rats started to binge drink similar to humans. The researchers then used optogenetics technology, which combines the techniques from optics and genetics to study the neurons in living tissue. The research team stimulated the rats' neurons with light. They discovered that the stimulation was enough to stop the rats from binge drinking.

"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," first author Caroline E. Bass, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences explained according to Medical Xpress. "For decades, we have observed that particular brain regions light up or become more active in an alcoholic when he or she drinks or looks at pictures of people drinking, for example, but we didn't know if those changes in brain activity actually governed the alcoholic's behavior."

The researchers hope that their findings could help with creating treatments for humans. These types of treatments would ideally help people with alcoholism and potentially other neurological and mental conditions.

"We can target dopamine neurons in a part of the brain called the nigrostriatal pathway, which is what degenerates in Parkinson's disease," Bass said. "If we could infuse a viral vector into that part of the brain, we could target potentially therapeutic genes to the dopamine neurons involved in Parkinson's. And by infusing the virus into other areas of the brain, we could potentially deliver therapeutic genes to treat other neurological diseases and mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and depression."

The study was published in the Frontiers in Neuroscience.

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