Thanks to a new study from the University of California, Santa Barbara, it now gives more insight into why some people cannot stop drinking even when they are already intoxicated. According to the new research, some people may lack a “brake” in their brains, which means that they can’t know when they have reached their limit.
Experts explain that most people have a mechanism called the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), that helps people feel the effects of alcohol and in the end manage how much they can drink. But, if it isn’t working correctly, people may not notice when they’ve had enough, and just keep drinking.
The new research, which is published in the Journal of Neuroscience, identified the area in the brain of mouse subjects. The site is connected to both the amygdala, which is in charge of controlling the fight or flight response and the nucleus accumbens, which is connected to reward.
Paul F. Worley was responsible for creating the mice at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to have mutations in a specific protein. If the site on the protein is not able to react with an enzyme (ERK), due to the modification or its activity being blocked artificially, the “brakes” on excessive drinking appear to be disabled, lead author Karen Szumlinski told Reporters.
Simply put, the mice with the mutation didn’t stop drinking even when they were inebriated.
According to Szumlinski is a neuroscientist who studies binge drinking and how over-drinking can lead to stress on the brain, she found that it’s a leap to go from drunk mice to people, but there are significant connections to be noticed.
“How we perceive how drunk we are is going to influence our subsequent drinking,” she stated. “Although their behavior is telling us they are completely intoxicated, maybe they don’t feel hammered. Or maybe when they’re feeling drunk, they don’t perceive that as a bad thing.”
Her team is continually searching for new connections through databases for these specific mutations in human genes. However, the only true way to test for changes in the BNST is to use the tissue of deceased patients.
she explained saying, “The BNST is a very small structure that is currently hard to image in humans and of course, we can’t manipulate its function.”
“So right now, we are turning to mouse models of genetic and environmental predisposition to binge-drinking to see if there may be a link between alcoholism vulnerability (‘bad brakes’) and the function of ERK-dependent signaling in the BNST,” the researchers concluded.