What makes people more susceptible to alcohol?

SELINSGROVE—Alcohol’s effect on the brain and what makes people more susceptible to addiction. Two local universities are in collaborating to study the effects of alcohol on the brain. Erin Rhinehart PH.D. Associate Professor at Susquehanna University is giving alcohol to mice and examining their brains, “I study the effects of alcohol on brain chemistry in male and female rodents as a surrogate model for how alcohol affects the brains in humans.”

Rhinehart works in collaboration with Dr. Judith Grisel, professor of Psychology at Bucknell University. “We have a really nice collaboration because my interest is the brain, so she does the behavior part like what makes the mice want to drink.”

In the experiment the mice were injected with enough alcohol to give them a “buzz”. Two hours after the mice were sacrificed and the brains examined; what they found was an increase in the enzyme associated with the brains reward system. Rhinehart says, “We know that at the dosage we gave the females have an increase in this enzyme, so an increase in dopamine but the males did not.”

At the dosage they gave, the females have an increase dopamine meaning woman have an increase susceptibility to alcoholism. Rhinehart explains what the reward system has to do with addiction, “The reward pathway in the brain did not evolve for drugs. It evolved so that our species would continue because we would find food, and sex, and water, and nurturing rewarding. The thing is that drugs can amplify that system in way that normal everyday stimuli could never do.”

Similar studies would give large amounts of alcohol to the mice and the results in male and female brains were the same. The dosage played a role in the study with the lower dosage uncovering the sex difference. You can hear our whole conversation with professor Rhinehart at WKOK.com. (Sarah Benek)

About The Author