The effects of low-level lead exposure may lead researchers to better understand why some people go on to develop an alcohol use disorder and others do not.
Published in the journal Neuropharmacology, a research group at Indiana University studied the association between developmental lead exposure and the risk of alcohol addiction relapse in rodents.
“Here we sought to investigate if developmental lead (Pb) exposure can increase propensity to alcohol consumption and relapse using an alcohol self-administration paradigm,” according to the study’s authors.
“Because Pb exposure is associated with increased glutamatergic tone, we also studied the effects on the expression of synaptic and non-synaptic glutamate transporters in brain regions associated with drug addiction such as the nucleus accumbens (NAc), dorsomedial striatum (DMS), dorsolateral striatum (DLS), and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC).”
Based on their assessment, the research group concluded that while developmental lead exposure was not associated with any increase in alcohol consumption, it did, however, play a role in the relapse of people with alcohol addiction.
“The main conclusion that emerges from these observations is that although low-level developmental Pb exposure does not increase the risk of alcohol consumption in adult mice, it seems to play an important role in relapse to alcohol seeking, an effect that was associated with differential expression of synaptic and non-synaptic glutamate transporters in the striatum,” the co-authors determined in their findings.
“These results are consistent with a number of studies in which developmental Pb exposure is associated with altered brain glutamate signaling, and is striking that the effects are observed at Pb exposure levels currently deemed safe by state and federal authorities.”