Neurobiology of Alcohol Dependence

Focus on Motivational Mechanisms

About the Course:

A major goal of alcohol research is to understand the neural underpinnings associated with the transition from alcohol use to alcohol dependence. Chronic exposure to alcohol induces changes in neural circuits that control motivational processes, including arousal, reward, and stress. These neuroadaptations produce changes in sensitivity to alcohol’s effects following repeated exposure (i.e., sensitization and tolerance) and a withdrawal state following discontinuation of alcohol use. Chronic alcohol exposure also results in persistent neural deficits, some of which may fully recover following extended periods of abstinence. However, the organism remains susceptible to relapse, even after long periods of abstinence. Recent research focusing on brain arousal, reward, and stress systems is accelerating our understanding of the components of alcohol dependence and contributing to the development of new treatment strategies.

Journal/Publisher:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Publication Date:

Alcohol Research and Health, Volume 21, Number 3, 2008

Author

Nicholas W. Gilpin, Ph.D., and George F. Koob, Ph.D.

About the Author:

Nicholas W. Gilpin, Ph.D., is a research associate, and George F. Koob, Ph.D., is a professor in the Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California.

Recommended For:

This course is recommended for health care professionals, especially addiction counselors, psychologists, mental health counselors, social workers, and nurses who seek knowledge about the neurobiology of alcohol dependence. It is appropriate for all levels of participants’ knowledge.

Course Objectives:

  1. Discuss reinforcement and how the concept relates to the transition from alcohol use to alcohol dependence.

  2. Identify brain circuits which mediate alcohol reinforcement.

  3. Describe the late stages of alcohol dependence, including neurodegeneration and relapse behavior.

Exam Questions

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