What if you had a switch to control your boozing habit? A team of researchers has identified a circuit between two brain regions that controls alcohol binge drinking.
The University of North Carolina research has offered a more complete picture on what drives a behavior that costs the United States more than 170 billion dollars annually and how it can be treated.
The two brain areas, the extended amygdala and the ventral tegmental area, have been implicated in alcohol binge drinking in the past. However, this is the first time that the two areas have been identified as a functional circuit, connected by long projection neurons that produce a substance called corticotropin releasing factor, or CRF for short.
The results provide the first direct evidence in mice that inhibiting a circuit between two brain regions protects against binge alcohol drinking.
“The puzzle is starting to come together, and is telling us more than we ever knew about before,” said researcher Todd Thiele, adding “We now know that two brain regions that modulate stress and reward are part of a functional circuit that controls binge drinking and adds to the idea that manipulating the CRF system is an avenue for treating it.”
“It’s very important that we continue to try to identify alternative targets for treating alcohol use disorders,” Thiele said. “If you can stop somebody from binge drinking, you might prevent them from ultimately becoming alcoholics. We know that people who binge drink, especially in their teenage years, are much more likely to become alcoholic-dependent later in life.”
The study appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry.