What makes rats relapse

December 3, 2018, Society for Neuroscience
Context-induced relapse to alcohol seeking is associated with selective activation of the anterior insular cortex. Outline of the experimental procedure (A). Number of Fos-positive neurons per square millimetre in the anterior insular cortex in rats tested in Context A: alcohol context, or in Context B: punishment context who were either low relapsing or high relapsing. Correlation between alcohol seeking behavior in Context B: punishment context and active lever presses on relapse test (B). Credit: Campbell et al., JNeurosci (2018)

Activation of the anterior insular cortex—a brain region implicated in drug abuse—rather than drinking history or motivation for alcohol predicts relapse after a month of abstinence, reports a study of male rats published in JNeurosci. The results may explain why some individuals are more likely than others to relapse.

Using a recently developed animal model of -seeking, Andrew Lawrence, Erin Campbell, and colleagues studied a defining feature of human alcohol use disorder: the tendency to relapse following self-imposed abstinence, despite known health and social consequences. Alcohol-using rats were more likely to relapse after 30 days of abstinence in an environment in which they were previously punished with a foot shock, suggesting alcohol-seeking in the face of adversity. This finding is relevant to the human experience of returning to alcohol use after a distressing event, such as an ended relationship or loss of a job.

Identification of the anterior insular cortex—inactivation of which prevented relapse in the punishment context—furthers our understanding the neurobiology of relapse, which could inform preventative strategies for in humans.

Explore further: Brain mechanisms in drug addiction—new brain pathways revealed

More information: JNeurosci (2018). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1596-18.2018

Related Stories

Brain mechanisms in drug addiction—new brain pathways revealed

November 24, 2016
UNSW researchers have identified new brain pathways linked to addiction and shown that by manipulating them, drug seeking behaviour and motivation for alcohol can be reduced.

Rats, like humans, return to drinking once punishment is removed

January 30, 2013
Once heavy drinking impairs function, a variety of punishment-related threats may motivate people to stop drinking: spouses may threaten divorce, employers may threaten job loss, and courts threaten drunk drivers with losing ...

Relapse in major depression linked to brain cortical changes

March 30, 2018
(HealthDay)—For patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), relapse is associated with brain cortical changes over two years, according to a study published online March 28 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Study shows that females are more sensitive to external factors that promote alcohol use

April 2, 2015
A study conducted in rats measuring risk factors that contribute to alcohol abuse suggests females are particularly sensitive to alcohol-related cues and stress which elicits a "craving" response.

Opioid use may affect treatment for alcohol dependence

June 6, 2018
New research indicates that opioid misuse and the use of cannabis and other drugs may compromise the effectiveness of treatments for alcohol use disorder. In an Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research study, individuals ...

Brain mechanism may explain alcohol cravings that drive relapse

March 10, 2010
New research provides exciting insight into the molecular mechanisms associated with addiction and relapse. The study, published by Cell Press in the March 11 issue of the journal Neuron, uncovers a crucial mechanism that ...

Recommended for you

The importins of anxiety

December 11, 2018
According to some estimates, up to one in three people around the world may experience severe anxiety in their lifetime. In a study described today in Cell Reports, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science have revealed ...

Neurons in the brain work as a team to guide movement of arms, hands

December 11, 2018
The apparent simplicity of picking up a cup of coffee or turning a doorknob belies the complex sequence of calculations and processes that the brain must undergo to identify the location of an item in space, move the arm ...

How returning to a prior context briefly heightens memory recall

December 11, 2018
Whether it's the pleasant experience of returning to one's childhood home over the holidays or the unease of revisiting a site that proved unpleasant, we often find that when we return to a context where an episode first ...

The richer the reward, the faster you'll likely move to reach it, study shows

December 11, 2018
If you are wondering how long you personally are willing to stand in line to buy that hot new holiday gift, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine say the answer may be found in the biological rules governing how animals typically ...

Using neurofeedback to prevent PTSD in soldiers

December 11, 2018
A team of researchers from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. has found that using neurofeedback could prevent soldiers from experiencing PTSD after engaging in emotionally difficult situations. In their paper published in the ...

Study: Age, race differences determine risk of stroke in women and men

December 11, 2018
A new study found that, between the ages of 45 and 74 years, white women were less likely to have a stroke than white men, but at age 75 and older, there was no difference in stroke risk between white women and men. In contrast, ...


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.