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D2 Neurons Discovered, Could Prevent And Treat Alcoholism

First Posted: Jul 07, 2016 05:53 AM EDT
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Alcohol addiction may be inhibited by activating the neurons in the brain called D2, according to scientists.
(Photo : Cindy Ord / Stringer / Getty Images)

The researchers from Texas A&M College of Medicine discovered that D2 neurons, which are the neurons in the brain that tell you to wait, stop or do nothing can prevent addictive behaviors such as alcoholism when they are activated and manipulated.

The findings of the study were published in Biological Psychiatry. It was led by Jun Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the Texas A&M College of Medicine and other colleagues.

The researchers revealed that alcohol consumption changes the physical structure and function of neurons, which are called medium spiny neurons. They discovered that when D1, one type of neuron is activated, it determines whether one drink leads to two. On the other hand, they found other neurons, the D2, which tells one to stop.

The D1 neurons are thought of as the part of a "go" pathway in the brain. On the other hand, the D2 neurons are in the "no-go" pathway. This means that when D2 neurons are activated, they discourage action such as telling you to stop, wait or to do nothing.

Prof. Wang explained that D2 neurons are good from the addiction point of view. He further explained that when they activated, they prevent drinking behavior and therefore activating them is important for inhibiting problem drinking behavior as noted by Vital Record.

The study involved mice models. The researchers trained the mice to consume alcohol using an intermittent-access two-bottle-choice drinking procedure. The team used the slice electrophysiology to measure the glutamatergic and GABAergic strength in DMS D1- and D2-MSNs of alcohol-drinking mice and their controls. Their consequences on alcohol consumptions were also measured.

The results showed that repeated cycles of alcohol consumption and withdrawal in mice fortified glutamatergic transmission in D1-MSNs and GABAergic transmission in D2-MSNs. In D1-MSNs, alcohol consumption was promoted. On the other hand, there was a suppression of D2 receptor-glycogen synthase kinase, which reduced excessive alcohol consumption.

Wang said that if they could someday use drugs or electrical stimulation or some other method of activating the D2 neurons then they might be able to inhibit alcoholics from wanting another drink. This is actually their ultimate goal. Wang further said he hopes that these findings will eventually be able to be used for treatment for alcohol addiction.

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