Behavioral test shows promise in predicting future problems with alcohol

August 27, 2012 by Bill Hathaway
Image via Shutterstock

(Medical Xpress)—By administering a simple behavioral test, Yale researchers were able to predict which mice would later exhibit alcoholism-related behaviors such as the inability to stop seeking alcohol and a tendency to relapse, the scientists report in the Aug. 26 issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The findings suggest that a similar test for people might be able to identify individuals who are at high risk of developing before they begin drinking.

"We are trying to understand the neurobiology underlying for alcoholism," said Jane Taylor, the Charles B.G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry and professor of psychology at the Yale School of Medicine and senior author of the study. "What is encouraging about this study is that we have identified both a behavioral indicator and a molecule that explains that risk."

Many high school- and college-aged students abuse alcohol during their school years, but only a minority end up dependent upon alcohol later in life. While there is a clear for alcoholism, not all children of alcoholics become dependent. Scientists have been busy trying to find ways to predict which adolescents are at greatest risk before drinking begins.

In a classic Pavlovian experiment, the Yale team found mice that reacted the most to a food cue also exhibited greater alcoholism-related behaviors. Importantly, the mice did not differ in other food-seeking behaviors. The researchers also identified a role for neural (NCAM) and its modified form, PSA-NCAM, known to be involved in . Mice with low levels of PSA-NCAM in an area of the seemed unable to control their alcohol-seeking behavior, while the reward-seeking behavior of mice with higher levels of the molecule was more flexible and less indicative of addiction.

"This would make sense since alcoholism is associated with a lack of neurobiological and behavioral plasticity," Taylor said. "The brains of alcoholics seem to get stuck in the same patterns of activity."

Explore further: New strain of lab mice mimics human alcohol consumption patterns

Related Stories

New strain of lab mice mimics human alcohol consumption patterns

December 12, 2011
A line of laboratory mice developed by a researcher from the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis drinks more alcohol than other animal models and consumes it in a fashion similar to humans: ...

Heredity behind subjective effects of alcohol

May 23, 2011
Scientists have long known that people who have a close relative with alcohol problems themselves run an increased risk of starting to abuse alcohol. The reason for this has not been known, but a new study from the University ...

Scientists explore new link between genetics, alcoholism and the brain

April 12, 2011
Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System have uncovered a new link between genetic variations associated with alcoholism, impulsive behavior and a region of the brain involved in craving and anxiety.

Drinking alcohol shrinks critical brain regions in genetically vulnerable mice

February 15, 2012
Brain scans of two strains of mice imbibing significant quantities of alcohol reveal serious shrinkage in some brain regions - but only in mice lacking a particular type of receptor for dopamine, the brain's "reward" chemical. ...

Recommended for you

Our memory shifts into high gear when we think about raising our children, new study shows

December 15, 2017
Human memory has evolved so people better recall events encountered while they are thinking about raising their offspring, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New ...

Offbeat brain rhythms during sleep make older adults forget

December 15, 2017
Like swinging a tennis racket during a ball toss to serve an ace, slow and speedy brainwaves during deep sleep must sync up at exactly the right moment to hit the save button on new memories, according to new UC Berkeley ...

Study finds graspable objects grab attention more than images of objects do

December 15, 2017
Does having the potential to act upon an object have a unique influence on behavior and brain responses to the object? That is the question Jacqueline Snow, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, ...

Little understood cell helps mice see color

December 14, 2017
Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have discovered that color vision in mice is far more complex than originally thought, opening the door to experiments that could potentially lead to new treatments ...

Scientists chart how brain signals connect to neurons

December 14, 2017
Scientists at Johns Hopkins have used supercomputers to create an atomic scale map that tracks how the signaling chemical glutamate binds to a neuron in the brain. The findings, say the scientists, shed light on the dynamic ...

Journaling inspires altruism through an attitude of gratitude

December 14, 2017
Gratitude does more than help maintain good health. New research at the University of Oregon finds that regularly noting feelings of gratitude in a journal leads to increased altruism.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.