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Research sharpens focus on glutamate in alcohol treatment

February 13, 2018
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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New research conducted at Indiana University identifies the neurotransmitter glutamate as playing an important role in alcohol craving, suggesting a target for future treatments.

Published in the Journal of Alcohol and Alcoholism, the study used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to show how images associated with alcohol use affect glutamate levels in the dorsal anterior cingulate region of the brain. Researchers found that brain levels of glutamate decreased in individuals with an alcohol use disorder after they were shown drinking-related images, such as a photo of a glass of alcohol. Individuals with no alcohol use disorder showed no changes in glutamate levels when viewing these images.

“Scientists can now confidently target glutamate levels in the brain as they develop new treatments for alcoholism and other forms of addiction,” said Sharlene Newman, a professor in the university's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

The study involved a total of 35 participants, 17 of whom had an alcohol use disorder.

 

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