Indian-American identifies link between alcoholism and anxiety

March 5th, 2008 - 10:56 am ICT by admin  

New York, March 5 (IANS) Indian-American Subhash Pandey and his team have identified the molecular link between anxiety and alcohol addiction, which is likely to spur new therapeutic strategies in its treatment. “The association of anxiety with increased alcohol use is a key factor in the initiation and maintenance of alcohol addition,” said Pandey of the University of Illinois.

Pandey found a protein in neurons in the part of the brain that controls development of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and drinking behaviour in lab animals.

This happens as the protein changes the shape of the neurons, which leads to changes in behaviour.

Neurons communicate by sending signals through branches called dendritic spines. The researchers found that short-term alcohol exposure increased the number of dendritic spines, producing anti-anxiety effects.

Researchers traced the anti-anxiety effect to the production of a particular protein, Arc, in response to a nerve growth factor called BDNF that is stimulated by alcohol exposure. BDNF is vital in the functioning and maintenance of neurons.

When alcohol was withheld from animals that had been chronically exposed, they developed high anxiety. Levels of BDNF and Arc - and the number of dendritic spines - were seen to fall.

But the researchers were able to eliminate the anxiety in the alcohol-dependent animals by restoring BDNF and Arc to normal levels. The findings have been published in the March issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

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