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Alcohol addiction is a serious issue in today's generation. There are plenty of families who suffer daily due to one of their close and dear ones being addicted to alcohol. It is not uncommon to hear people dying due to their alcohol addiction.
In spite of the known fact that alcohol does much damage to our body, yet our brain tends to choose alcohol over other healthier drinking alternatives.
You would have seen that every pack of alcohol does come with a note on the top stating that it is definitely injurious to one's health. Nevertheless, people still choose to consume alcohol to relax and entertain themselves.
It has off late been identified as a stress buster as well, where people overlook how it actually is damaging their internal organs.
Scientists have explored this addiction towards alcohol and come out with interesting facts and data as to why the brain is so prone to choosing and preferring alcohol over other drinks.
People tend to give in to addiction in spite of being aware that drinking alcohol will be harmful in the long run whose result could also be death.
The fact that scientists have identified for this drinking addiction behaviour is all related to how our brain is wired. A particular mechanism in the brain is to be blamed for this addiction behaviour. Research proves that the mechanism of the brain is such that it makes a person crave for alcohol.
A study using rats was conducted by researchers from the Linkoping University in Sweden to understand the phenomenon behind the brain choosing alcohol. The experiment involved a number of rats who were administered a small dose of alcohol.
This was if the rats were willing to tolerate a short duration pulse of shock that was mildly painful. They were then trained to take in as much alcohol as they would want and then offered an alternative.
The alternative was such that whenever a small lever would be pulled, the rats would be given sweetened water, but without receiving any form of shock.
It was found that almost all the rats moved away from alcohol to take in the sweet water. However, a small number, of about 15 per cent of the rats, preferred the alcohol, in spite of having to endure the shocks.
When compared with that of humans, researchers said that there are a similar proportion of alcohol addicts among humans as well.
The rats that preferred alcohol over the sweetened water, although they had to endure shocks to get it, had a behaviour similar to that of humans who are alcohol addicts. This attributes to the propensity to continue with the consumption of alcohol (an addictive substance) in spite of knowing of its associated negative consequences.
According to the statement released by Markus Heilig, professor at the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine and director of the Centre for Social and Affective Neuroscience, there is something wrong with the motivational control in humans which forces them to choose alcohol in the form of addiction in spite of knowing that it has the potential to kill you.
Understanding The Mechanism Behind The Addiction
Researchers conducted a thorough study as to what the exact reason was behind some of the rats choosing the intake of alcohol over the sweetened water. The expression of hundreds of genes in five different key areas of the rat's brain was measured by the scientists.
The report provided by the scientists state that the major difference between a normal brain and an addicted brain was identified in the region called amygdale of the brain. This is the part of the brain which is associated with emotional responses.
This experiment helped scientists to identify molecular rearrangements in the brain. This was the cause that led to impulsive and self-destructive addiction.
Is There A Possibility Of Switching Off The Addiction?
The report released by the scientists stated that there was one particular gene in the brains of the addicted rats that was found to be expressed at significantly low levels. This gene was responsible for maintaining inhibitory signal substance at low levels.
This inhibitory signal substance is around the nerve cells that are regulated by GAT-3, which is nothing but a protein that works as a transporter.
To identify the effectiveness of this gene, scientists would knock out this GAT-3 from the rats who were attracted to the sweet water over alcohol.
According to the lead investigator of this experiment, Eric Augier, when the expression of the transporter was decreased, there was a striking effect on the behaviour of these rats. The rats that initially preferred the sweet water over alcohol had now changed their preference and chose alcohol instead.
How Does This Discovery Help?
The experiment conducted on the rats by the scientists lays a foundation for improving the treatment offered to people who are alcohol addicts. The release, after the research was completed, also stated that the experiment could form a base where alcohol dependence could be tried to control to a great extent.
According to the co-author of the study, Dayne Mayfield, the interesting change noted in the animal models during the research was something that was rarely found and that the same change was noted in the brains of the human beings who are alcohol addicts.
The paper noting down the results of the research was first published in the journal Science under the name "A molecular mechanism for choosing alcohol over an alternative reward".