CHAPEL HILL, N.C., April 26 (UPI) -- Researchers say they have identified a circuit between two parts of the brain that controls the urge for to binge drink, suggesting a treatment to prevent dependence may be possible.
The extended amygdala and ventral tegmental area have been linked to binge drinking, but discovering the way they interact to influence drinking is a step forward in potentially preventing people from becoming dependent, researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill report in a recent study.
Although the study was conducted with mice, blocking the brain circuit resulted in the rodents drinking less alcohol during the study.
"It's very important that we continue to try to identify alternative targets for treating alcohol use disorders," Dr. Todd Thiele, a researcher in the department of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, said in a press release. "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."
For the study, published in the journal of Biological Psychiatry, researchers introduced ethanol to mice who exhibited binge-drinking behaviors.
The researchers then used chemicals to inhibit the brain circuit's function, finding that while some mice still exhibited the same behaviors, they had significantly reduced intake of alcohol -- suggesting there may be a method to do the same in humans.
"The puzzle is starting to come together, and is telling us more than we ever knew about before," Thiele said. "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."