Dopaminergic transmission in the brain's mesocorticolimbic system is thought to be a significant factor in alcohol abuse and dependence. Most research on the dopaminergic response to alcohol and its conditioned cues is nevertheless done in rodents. The extent to which these rodent models translate to human alcohol use disorders is unknown. Therefore the long term goal of our proposed work is the development of an in vivo human biomarker of striatal dopaminergic responses that can be applied to the study alcoholism and its antecedent risks. We will do this using positron emission tomography (PET) and the dopamine D2 ligand [11C]raclopride. Behavioral paradigms will be employed to study how alcohol administration, alcohol's cues, and expectations of impending alcohol-intoxication relate to dopamine function in subjects with alcoholism.
This research will use a technology called positron emission tomography to study the neurochemical dopamine in the human brain. Alterations in this neurochemical system are thought to be highly important to alcoholism, as well as to other addictions. Research such as this has the potential to show exactly how dopamine neurotransmission is altered in alcoholism, findings that may lead to better treatments and diagnosis.
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