In a new study, researchers found that oxytocin, the so-called ‘love hormone’, could help treat alcohol use disorder.
The finding may help develop new medical interventions for the treatment of the alcohol-use disorder.
The research was conducted by a team from the National Institutes of Health and The Scripps Research Institute.
Oxytocin is a peptide hormone and neuropeptide. It is normally produced in the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary.
Oxytocin is called ‘love hormone’ because it plays an important role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, childbirth, and the period after childbirth.
Previous research has shown that oxytocin can help decrease consumption, withdrawal symptoms, and drug-seeking behavior linked to drug abuse.
It also shows promise as a medical approach to treat drug addiction.
In the current study, the team wanted to understand how oxytocin mediates these effects.
They tested a hypothesis that oxytocin could normalize the maladaptive brain changes that occur in alcohol disorder and thus reduce alcohol drinking in alcohol dependence.
In their experiments, they found that oxytocin could block enhanced drinking in alcohol-dependent rats.
They explain that oxytocin can alter signaling of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the central nucleus of the amygdala, which is a key brain region affected by alcohol dependence.
The finding provides evidence that oxytocin could block enhanced drinking by altering GABA transmission.
The team hopes that this finding could help develop a promising therapy in people who misuse alcohol.
The leaders of the study are Drs. Tunstall, Koob and Vendruscolo, and Drs. Kirson and Roberto.
The study is published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology.
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