One of the several challenges with fighting alcohol addiction and other substance abuse conditions is the risk of relapse, even after headway toward recovery.
A new study in flies discovers that alcohol hijacks a memory formation path and alters the proteins expressed in the neurons, forming cravings. Just a few drinks in an evening changes how memories are formed at the fundamental, molecular level.
Researchers at the Brown University worked to reveal the molecular signaling pathways and alterations in gene expression involved in making and maintaining reward memories.
After researchers apprehend what molecules are shifting when cravings are formed, then they can figure out how to help recuperating alcoholics and addicts by possibly reducing how long the craving memories last, or how strong they are.
One of the downstream dominos in the signaling pathway affected by alcohol is a gene called dopamine-2-like receptor, which makes a protein on neurons that identifies dopamine, the "cheerful" neurotransmitter. The team is persistent in its work by studying the effects that opiates have on the same conserved molecular pathways.