Sophisticated brain imaging techniques have helped scientists identify factors that may protect an individual with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism from developing the disorder.
A multi-institution team of scientists has discovered that high levels of certain receptors in the human brain that regulate dopamine, a chemical involved in the brain's reward circuitry, may counteract a genetic predisposition to alcoholism (Volkow ND et al. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63:999-1008). The findings add to a growing body of evidence from human and animal studies that suggest that D2 dopamine receptors and dopamine play an important role in alcoholism and other addictions. They also suggest that medical or environmental interventions that boost D2 receptor levels may be potential treatments.
Kuehn BM. Protective Factors May Prevent Alcoholism. JAMA. 2006;296(15):1828-1829. doi:10.1001/jama.296.15.1828