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Scripps Research study overturns decade-old findings in neurobiology
Date:5/12/2010

rain region use GABA to fine-tune signaling throughout the nervous system. Previous studies by the Scripps Research scientists indicated that GABA plays a critical role in alcohol dependence and other addictions.

"We knew ethanol in these neurons increase GABA transmission, and that cannabinoids decrease GABA transmission," said Roberto. "So the question was what happens if we activate the cannabinoid system and we put ethanol on it."

When the scientists first applied the CB1 agonist on cells from the central amygdala, it decreased GABA transmission; when the scientists proceeded to put ethanol on top, the effect of ethanol was abolished. When the team reversed the order of application, GABA transmission first went up with the application of ethanol, then down with the application of the CB1 agonist.

"Alcohol and CB1 agonists have opposing effects on GABA," summarized Schweitzer. "Our feeling is that since the CB1 system is so widely expressed, there's a big role there in dampening the effect of alcohol."

While the team's research points to the endocannibinoid system as a potential target in the development of drugs to treat alcoholism, Schweitzer notes there are still many questions to be answered: Do CB1 agonists work the same way in brains that have become addicted to alcohol? What is the mechanism for this action? Can the effects of CB1 on alcohol metabolism be separated from its many other effects on mood, appetite, and memory?

Schweitzer also cautions against equating CB1 agonists and cannabis in interpreting the study's results. "This study does not have to do with marijuana, but the endocannabinoid system," he said. "On this level of analysis, the two don't have much in common."


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Contact: Keith McKeown
kmckeown@scripps.edu
858-784-8134
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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