Unlike most fall sneak peaks, which are for new or continuing television series, such as my favorite guilty pleasure,  Jersey Shore, an article published by myself and former lab mates is also receiving a sneak peak; The now, Dr. Steve B. Hammer’s paper, Environmental Modulation of Alcohol Intake in Hamsters: Effects of Wheel Running and Constant Light Exposure, focuses on how exercise (and we all know that hamsters love to run on wheels….up to 15 miles a day by our measures!!!) is a healthy, effective, and most importantly, non-pharmacological dopamine-rewarding substitute for alcohol. Not to spoil the plot and the neuroendrocinal and public health implications of this research, but in general, the more active Steve’s hamsters were the less they craved alcohol and vice versa. Of more interest, the highly active hamsters had more consolidated, robust behavioral rhythms, particularly in the aging animals, which means, that exercise in older adults, who have increased risks of depression given life-shattering events (i.e. death of spouse, and friends, retirement, and bankruptcy) may subsequently reduce risks of alcohol abuse and alcoholism as well as enable them to sleep more soundly across the night and nap less frequently during the day: a physiological conundrum of aging.

Aside from the obvious beneficial information of Steve’s study, I would like to emphasize that exercise acts as a non-pharmacological and effective treatment option in this study, which is important, because many drugs given to recovering alcoholics don’t abate the problem, but exacerbate it. These drugs, such as ResearchBlogging.orgCampral, a glutamate antagonist much like the pharmacological properties of alcohol, simply modulate glutamatergic neurosystems in a manner that minimally reduces craving (since little actually crosses the blood-brain barrier!). But what happens when these recovering alcoholics stop taking Campral? They most likely relapse! Therefore, Campral, much like other anti-abuse drugs such as naltrexone, encourage a vicious cycle of drug dependence and reward. This failure to treat the underlying neurochemical pathology is further confounded by the fact that most of these drugs have pharmacological efficacies that vary among ethnic and racial groups; formerly referred to as pharmacogenetics.

So what’s the solution? Go run ultramarathons like Steve……or learn how to pole vault!!!

Oslin, D., Berrettini, W., & O’Brien, C. (2006). Targeting treatments for alcohol dependence: the pharmacogenetics of naltrexone Addiction Biology, 11 (3-4), 397-403 DOI: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2006.00036.x

Hammer, S., Ruby, C., Brager, A., Prosser, R., & Glass, J. (2010). Environmental Modulation of Alcohol Intake in Hamsters: Effects of Wheel Running and Constant Light Exposure Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01251.x