New research points to specific changes in the amygdala as a possible cause of alcohol use disorder

Chronic alcohol consumption, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), might be the result of certain changes occurring in the amygdala region of the brain, a recent study publicized in the journal Progress in Neurobiology suggests.

According to researchers with the Scripps Research Institute, changes to anti-inflammatory mechanisms and cellular activity in the amygdala region could be the reasoning behind excessive alcohol consumption.

The addiction was essentially combatted when those changes were countered.

“Alcohol elicits a neuroimmune response in the brain contributing to the development and maintenance of AUD,” the findings read. “While pro-inflammatory mediators initiate and drive the neuroimmune response, anti-inflammatory mediators provide an important homeostatic mechanism to limit inflammation and prevent pathological damage.”

“Here, we hypothesized that chronic alcohol exposure compromises anti-inflammatory signaling in the central amygdala, a brain region implicated in anxiety and addiction, consequently perpetuating a pro-inflammatory state driving aberrant neuronal activity underlying pathological behaviors,” the co-authors explained in their new publication.

The results of their new study led to the conclusion that AUD compromises brain immune cells, crucial to keep neurons healthy. Such adversities arising from this process could increase the risk of anxiety and alcohol drinking, leading to the possible development of a substance misuse disorder.

“We found that alcohol dependence alters the global brain immune landscape increasing Interleukin 10 (IL-10) producing microglia and T-regulatory cells but decreasing local amygdala IL-10 levels,” the results indicated. “Amygdala IL-10 overexpression decreases anxiety-like behaviors, suggesting its local role in regulating amygdala-mediated behaviors.”

“This highlights the importance of amygdala IL-10 signaling in modulating neuronal activity and underlying anxiety-like behavior and aberrant alcohol intake, providing a new framework for therapeutic intervention,” the study concluded.

Image courtesy of BioMed Central
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