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Researchers Shed Light on Anxiety and Alcohol Intake

Armen Hareyan's picture


Scientists have identified a brain mechanism in rats that may play a central role in regulating anxiety and alcohol-drinking. The finding, by researchers supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), could provide important clues about the neurobiology of alcohol-drinking behaviors in humans. A report of the study appears in the October 3, 2005 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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"This is an intriguing finding," notes NIAAA Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D. "These experiments, conducted in rats selectively bred to have a high affinity for alcohol, help us address questions about the potential role that anxiety might play in human alcoholism. These molecular studies also may reveal potential targets for therapy of anxiety and alcoholism."

Some researchers have suggested that high levels of anxiety may predispose some individuals to becoming alcoholic.

Researchers led by Subhash C. Pandey, Ph.D., Associate Professor and director of neuroscience alcoholism research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois and Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, found that "P" rats, a strain bred to prefer alcohol, showed more anxiety-like behaviors and drank more alcohol, than non alcohol-preferring "NP" rats. They measured anxiety in the rats with an apparatus known as an elevated plus-maze, which consists of two open arms and two closed arms connected to a central platform. Anxiety is gauged as a function of the amount of time a rat spends in the closed versus the open arms of the maze during a 5-minute testing period