Brain's Pleasure Chemical May Explain Men's Higher
FRIDAY, Oct. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Differences in the release
of the neurotransmitter dopamine may help explain why men are up to
twice as likely as women to develop alcoholism, a new study
Dopamine, which plays a number of roles in the brain, provides a
feeling of pleasure when it's released by experiences such as
having sex or taking drugs.
The study included male and female college-age volunteers who
underwent brain scans after consuming an alcoholic or non-alcoholic
drink. After consuming similar amounts of alcohol, men showed
greater dopamine release than women. The increased release occurred
in a part of the brain called the ventral striatum, which is
strongly associated with pleasure, reinforcement and addiction
formation, according to the researchers, from Columbia and Yale
Their findings were published in the Oct. 15 issue of
"In men, increased dopamine release also had a stronger association with subjective positive effects of alcohol intoxication," Dr. Nina Urban, a study co-author, said in a news release from the journal's publisher. "This may contribute to the initial reinforcing properties of alcohol and the risk for habit formation."
The study also found that repeated heavy drinking episodes
resulted in a decline in alcohol-induced dopamine release. This may
be a factor in developing tolerance or becoming an alcoholic, the
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has
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