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Histamine Plays a Role in Alcohol-Related Behavior

Posted in Alcoholism

A new study finds that the histamine-3 receptor plays an important role in alcohol-related behavior, and that a drug that affects that receptor may be able to alter alcohol-related behavior.

In addition to dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that are important in brain functioning also include histamine, which is well known for regulating allergies and stomach functioning. The extensive histamine system in the brain is also important in regulating the sleep-waking system.

In the study, conducted by Professor Pertti Panula of the Substance Use and Addictions research program of the Academy of Finland, it was observed that the brain histamine content of rats that liked to drink alcohol was higher compared with other rats. The alcohol consumption of the rats was reduced by giving them a drug that blocks the histamine-3 receptor that was discovered in the study. These findings show that the histamine system in the brain is part of the mechanism that regulates alcohol consumption.

Researchers also tested mice that lacked histamine and the histamine-3 receptor, and found that they did not become livelier after consuming alcohol, as did the histamine-containing mice. On the other hand, the rewarding pleasure effect of alcohol was stronger in the histamine-lacking mice compared with normal mice.

The study also found that transmitter histamine also contributes to the transmitting of the stimulating, pleasurable effect of alcohol in the brain. This was determined when the effects of alcohol that cause liveliness and pleasure changed noticeably when a histamine-3 receptor was blocked. This could help scientists develop a drug for alcohol addicts that would help reduce the pleasure received from alcohol.

“Whether these histamine-3 receptor drugs help in the treatment of human alcoholism will probably be clear when the results of the currently ongoing clinical trials become public. The drugs are currently being tested for the treatment of conditions such as observation disorders, sleep disorders and narcolepsy,” said Panula.

Source: Science Daily, Histamine Affects Alcohol-Related Behavior, June 29, 2009