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A gene mutation for excessive alcohol drinking found

10 June 2014

Beer glass by Tim Dobson

A new gene mutation found for alcoholism has been discovered by UCL scientists (NPP).

We have discovered a potential cause for excessive alcohol drinking. In the brain there are neurotransmitter receptors that coordinate the activity of neurons. GABA receptors form a major class that is responsible for inhibiting neuronal activity. We found that single point mutations in one subunit of the GABA receptor (beta 1 subunit) in the nucleus accumbens, an area associated with substance abuse and reward, can cause excessive alcohol intake and an increased desire to consume more alcohol. The mutations increased the spontaneous activation of these GABA receptors in the absence of GABA and could form one explanation (of many) for alcohol abuse in humans.

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