A recent study revealed alcohol addiction and abstinence could restructure the brain and makes changes in how it functions. The study's findings were originally published in the journal PNAS.
"The neuroscience of addiction has made tremendous progress, but the focus has always been on a limited number of brain circuits and neurotransmitters, primarily dopaminergic neurons, the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex,"senior author Olivier George, an associate professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, told a news portal. Adding, "Research groups have been fighting for years about whether 'their' brain circuit is the key to addiction. Our results confirm these regions are important, but the fact that we see such a massive remodelling of the functional brain architecture was a real shock."
The new findings suggest alcohol addiction may not just be a psychological condition or due to a particular lifestyle. "You would be surprised at how prevalent this view remains," George told a news portal. Adding,"The brain-wide remodelling of the functional architecture observed here is not 'normal.' It is not observed in a naive animal. It is not observed in an animal that drinks recreationally. It is only observed in animals with a history of alcohol dependence and it is massive."
A reduction in brain modularity could also lead to a host of brain disorders. People could develop Alzheimer's disease,brain injury and seizure disorders due to this.
This reduction in modularity interferes with "normal neuronal activity and information processing and contributes to cognitive impairment, emotional distress and intense craving observed in mice during abstinence from alcohol", according to George.
However, researchers have yet to discover if reduced modularity is permanent. "So far, we only know that it lasts at least one week into abstinence. We have not tested longer durations of abstinence, but it's one of our goals," George told a news portal.
Another study, published in the Journal of European Heart Journal, found a link between unhealthy addictions and negative brain conditions. "Importantly, the associations between risk factors and brain health and structure were not evenly spread across the whole brain; rather, the areas affected were mainly those known to be linked to our more complex thinking skills and to those areas that show changes in dementia and 'typical' Alzheimer's disease. Although the differences in brain structure were generally quite small, these are only a few possible factors of a potentially huge number of things that might affect brain ageing," Simon Cox, a senior research associate at the University of Edinburgh (UK), told a news portal.
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