Last week, I blogged about my lab mate’s upcoming publication in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. This week, I am attending the Research Society on Alcoholism meeting held in San Antonio (same place, same weather), and have already discovered that finding natural, alternative, non-pharmacological treatments, such as exercise, to reduce risk in individuals with a family history and/or to treat alcohol abuse is being pursued by many other labs. In a symposium clevely titled “Exercising some control on alcohol’s effects on the brain” an estrogenic group of researchers (girl power!) described their most recent, exciting results illustrating that exercise in rodents (via access to a running wheel) not only reduces alcohol consumption, but additionally elicits neuromodulation in a similar manner to alcohol; altering tyrosine hydroxylase kinetics, which syntheizes dopamine, in the ventral tegmental area–a major reward center of the brain–and protein expression within the nucleus accumbens–the other major reward area to which the ventral tegmental area projects too. Though their findings are still not conclusive, given that exercise’s rescuing effects varies in mouse strains, it’s promising, nonetheless, since many of the current alcohol abstinent medications aren’t effective (see previous post).

I didn’t have an opportunity to visit most of the poster’s yesterday because I was presenting my own (RSA 2010), but I also learned about a really cool technique for characterizing real-time dopamine release; fast action voltammetry in which an electrode is implanted into a region of interest and  detects changes in current in response to neurotransmitter release.

Even cooler experimental techniques utilized and presented in posters at the conference, include optogenetics; briefly the insertion of light-sensitive receptors into brain regions and neurons of interest can manipulate the activity of the neurons and even behavior as shown here!!!