Blame Your Genes - Through The Alcohol Bottle
Don't Blame the Alcohol, Blame the Genes
New research suggests the existence of a genetic predisposition for binge drinking among teenagers.
By Brett Spiegel
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TUESDAY, Dec. 4, 2012— Most children can probably answer the question "Which parent do you look like?" But they may soon also be able to answer the question "Which parent do you drink like?" According to new research, teenage binge drinking may be genetically predisposed.
Scientists have located a gene they think is responsible for the penchant to binge drink. The gene, RASGRF-2, is thought to be vital to the release of dopamine in the brain — an action that can be sparked by alcohol and drug intake, among other things. Dopamine is a brain chemical that, when triggered, can promote feelings of reward and pleasure.
"If people have a genetic variation of the RASGRF-2 gene, alcohol gives them a stronger sense of reward, making them more likely to be heavy drinkers," study leader Gunter Schumann, MD, PhD, told Reuters.
Researchers from King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry looked at how mice in which the RASGRF-2 gene had been extracted responded to alcohol. Their results, published in theProceedings of National Academy of Sciences, showed a decrease in alcohol-seeking behavior, as well as a decline in the release of dopamine in specific brain regions of the mice that did ingest alcohol.
The researchers then evaluated brain scans of 663 boys, all aged 14, who expected a reward for their study participation. Those with the RASGRF-2 gene displayed increased activity in regions of the brain similar to those in which dopamine was released in the mice. The researchers concluded that the boys who harbored the gene and discharged more dopamine experienced heightened pleasure with the expectation of reward — and therefore may be more susceptible to alcoholism.
Follow-up two years later of the test population confirmed that the boys who had the RASGRF-2 gene drank more frequently than the others. According to U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 90 percent of alcohol consumption by under-aged minors takes the form of binge drinking.
"People seek out situations which fulfill their sense of reward and make them happy, so if your brain is wired to find alcohol rewarding, you will seek it out," said Dr. Schumann in a statement.
Video: Do You Have The Alcoholic Gene? Is Drinking Not Your Fault? Can You Really Put the Blame Elsewhere?
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