You may be planning a quiet evening in this weekend, but your brain could have other plans for you. New research from Texas A&M and the University of California, San Francisco says that when your brain and booze get together, they have a devious way of encouraging you to keep going back to the bar for one more drink.
In a recently published paper in The Journal of Neuroscience, scientists say that alcohol is able to change neurons in the brain in a way that encourages the brain to want to drink more alcohol, and the more you drink over time, the more pronounced these changes can become.
According to Futurity, researchers looked at two types of dopamine receptors in animals: D1 neurons, referred to as “go” pathways because they encourage behavior, and D2 neurons, referred to as “no-go” pathways because they inhibit behavior. The animals that were exposed to alcohol saw their D1 neurons “mature,” making them more susceptible to activation in the future. This result was in contrast to animals not exposed to alcohol that had no changes to D1 neurons. And neither group saw any changes to their D2 neurons, leading the team to believe that alcohol specifically leads to “go” type behavior.
“When you drink alcohol, long-term memory is enhanced, in a way,” said Jun Wang, an assistant professor at Texas A&M. “But this memory process is not useful—in fact, it underlies addiction since it affects the ‘go’ neurons.” Yes, though alcohol may make some of your memories hazy, it can reinforce one specific type of memory very well: the memory that you want to drink more alcohol.
But researchers also found that by partially blocking D1 receptors, they could reduce alcohol cravings. “If we suppress this activity, we’re able to suppress alcohol consumption,” Wang said. “This is the major finding. Perhaps in the future, researchers can use these findings to develop a specific treatment targeting these neurons.”
Turns out you’re very mild-mannered. It’s your damn D1 receptors who like to party.