Research from McGill University suggests that people who are vulnerable to developing alcoholism exhibit a distinctive brain response when drinking alcohol, according to a new study by Prof. Marco Leyton, of McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry. Compared to people at low risk for alcohol-use problems, those at high risk showed a greater dopamine response in a brain pathway that increases desire for rewards. These findings, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, could help shed light on why some people are more at risk of suffering from alcoholism and could mark an important step toward the development of treatment options.
Recent technological developments in genomics have revealed a large number of genetic influences on common complex diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, cancer or schizophrenia. However, discovering a genetic variant predisposing to a disease is only a first step. To apply this knowledge towards prevention or cure, including tailoring treatment to the patient’s genetic profile –also known as personalized medicine – we need to know how this genetic variant affects health.