Gene therapy in brain may stop binge drinking

Researchers at the University at Buffalo have found a way to change alcohol drinking behaviour in rodents, using the emerging technique of optogenetics - using light to stimulate neurons.

In the experiments, rats were trained to drink alcohol in a way that mimics human binge-drinking behaviour.

"By stimulating certain dopamine neurons in a precise pattern, resulting in low but prolonged levels of dopamine release, we could prevent the rats from binging. The rats just flat out stopped drinking," said Caroline E. Bass, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology in UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Interestingly, the rodents continued to avoid alcohol even after the stimulation of neurons ended, Bass added.

Researchers activated the dopamine neurons through a type of deep brain stimulation using a new technique called optogenetics.

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