A new study presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference finds that chronic alcohol use affects the brain cells of young men and women differently.
Participants of the preliminary study did not have alcohol use disorder, but were classified as heavy drinkers. All participants were also in their 20s, suggesting that alcohol-related brain changes may not take very long to develop.
The participants included 11 men and 16 women between the ages of 23 and 28 years, who all reported "heavy" drinking patterns over the previous 10 years.
People who reported little or no alcohol use served as controls.
Interestingly, the researchers found differences in the activity of receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA – which plays an important function in regulating anxiety and is thought to play a role in depression.
"Generally, our work showed that alcohol causes more pronounced changes in both electrical and chemical neurotransmission in men than women," said study author Outi Kaarre in a news article. "There are two types of GABA receptors, A and B. Long-term alcohol use affects neurotransmission through both types in males, but only one type, GABA-A, is affected in females.
Previous studies on animals suggested that the GABA-A receptor may influence drinking patterns while GABA-B is connected to a desire for alcohol. The differences in brain response between men and women may help clinicians understand what drives each gender to heavy drinking, how they react to alcohol, and why they develop dependence.
Source:Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA)