Research teams from Tel Aviv University have released a study where blocking the memory of alcohol use may in fact help to cure the habit. A experiment done on rats shows that by doing just that, it helped to cure their “habit.” Memories often lead to relapses in alcoholics; however the blocking of the memory helps to break the bad habit and behavior pattern.
The scientists identified a particular molecular target within the rat’s brains that might be used in order to help treat alcoholics worldwide. Published in Nature Neuroscience 4, the study reports that the rats became “problem drinkers” after they had drank consistently a mixture of water and alcohol for 7 weeks. After, they took the alcohol away from the rats for 10 days; they gave them a slight taste of alcohol daily. They were administered a drug that helped to inhibit their memory and showed that they chose to go back to drinking the alcohol when it was given to them regularly again.
The researchers believe that a similar study with humans would yield the same results. This study could pave the way for other addictions including food, nicotine and drugs. “One of the main causes of relapse is craving, triggered in the memory by certain cues – like going into a bar, or the smell or taste of alcohol,” said Dr. SegevBarak, the lead author of the study and a professor at Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences and the Sagol School of Neuroscience.
“What we learned is that when rats were exposed to the smell or taste of alcohol there was a small window of opportunity to target the area of the brain that reconsolidates the memory of the craving for alcohol and to weaken or erase the memory – and thus the craving.”
This study is important step in research in helping humans fight addiction. The drug, Rapamycin, is currently FDA approved as an immunosuppressant for kidney transplant patients. However, the doctors believe that the drug could successfully help alcoholics fight cravings after the detox and withdrawal period.
“One of the main problems in alcoholism is relapse, and there are not many treatments. Even with an efficient treatment, 70% to 80% of the patients will relapse in the first year,” Barak says. “It’s really thrilling that we were able to completely erase the memory and prevent relapse in these animals. This could be a revolution in treatment approaches for addiction, in terms of erasing unwanted memories and thereby manipulating the brain triggers that are so problematic for people with addictions”, he said.