Dopamine May Protect Non-Alcoholics in Alcoholic Families

Higher dopamine receptor availability in caudate and ventral striatum

THURSDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Non-alcoholics with a family history of alcoholism have higher-than-normal availability of dopamine D2 receptors in the caudate and ventral striatum, which may protect against alcoholism, according to a study in the September issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Rockville, Md., and colleagues used positron emission tomography to examine dopamine D2 receptor numbers and glucose metabolism in the brains of 15 non-alcoholic subjects with several alcoholic relatives and 16 non-alcoholic subjects with no family history of alcoholism. Personality was also assessed using a personality questionnaire.

The researchers found that D2 receptor availability was significantly higher in the caudate and ventral striatum only in those with a family history of alcoholism. The increased receptor availability was associated with metabolism in the anterior cingulate, orbitofrontal and prefrontal cortices, which are regions that control inhibitory and emotional responses, the team notes. The increased D2 receptor availability was also associated with positive emotionality scores for personality.

"The higher-than-normal D2 receptor availability in non-alcoholic members of alcoholic families supports the hypothesis that high levels of D2 receptors may protect against alcoholism," Volkow and colleagues conclude.

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