News | PET-CT | June 13, 2016

PET-CT Reveals Adaptations of the Alcoholic Brain

Study shows how the sober brain might protect against further relapse by limiting receptor activity linked to cravings

PET-CT study, alcoholic brain, SNMMI 2016, mGluR5 receptor

Decreased mGluR5 availability in the brain of alcohol dependent individuals compared to healthy subjects. Image courtesy of Department of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imagine UZ Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

June 13, 2016 — An emerging molecular imaging technique may provide a way to break the perpetual cycle of abuse of alcoholism. It could signal patients’ heightened risk and lead to targeted drug treatments that reduce the compulsion to drink, said researchers presenting at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI), June 11-15 in San Diego.

According to 2016 statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), almost 7 percent of adults over the age of 18 had a drinking disorder in 2014. Alcohol-related deaths were deemed the fourth leading cause of preventable death, accounting for nearly 88,000 deaths in the same year.

Images of the brain lit up like fireworks as people experience pleasure and reward are a familiar sight, but sometimes the reward needs to be taken away. In this groundbreaking study, researchers imaged the brains of recently recovering alcoholics and found an inverse and compensatory adaptation in a particular receptor involved in memory, learning, and the sensations of pain and anxiety. This receptor, called metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 5 (mGluR5), is found throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems but, in certain areas of the brain, it is implicated in intense cravings and addictive relapse. It seems that the brains of recovering alcoholics have adapted to the enduring state of chemical dependency by significantly hindering mGluR5 receptors in the cerebral cortex and limbic system, thereby reducing cravings.

“Alcohol addiction is a complex, chronic brain disorder associated with enormous physical, social and financial consequences worldwide, and yet current therapies remain unsatisfactory,” said senior author Koen Van Laere, M.D., Ph.D., University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Leuven, Belgium. “Our team was able to investigate, for the first time, these marked changes in the brain circuitry of alcohol-dependent humans.”

Understanding this relationship between mGluR5 and the compulsion to drink could be the key to long-term sobriety by allowing doctors to predict if patients are liable to relapse. Additionally, this research could lead to new targeted drugs that limit receptor activity in patients who lack this neuro-adaptation or are otherwise at increased risk of returning to alcohol abuse.

For this study, researchers combined positron emission tomography (PET) with computed tomography (CT). The PET imaging agent F-18 FPEB, which binds with mGluR5 receptors, was administered to 16 recently sober subjects, ranging from 32 to 57 years of age, and 32 healthy controls with no alcoholism in their backgrounds. Participants then underwent quantitative PET/CT imaging that measured respective mGluR5 receptor binding. Subjects also provided a drinking history and underwent hair analysis to evaluate their drinking pattern. Quantitative PET/CT results showed significantly reduced mGluR5 availability in the bilateral cingulate, caudate and insular cortex of the limbic systems in alcohol-dependent subjects regardless of age, gender or smoking status when compared to healthy controls.

“Collectively, these findings strongly substantiate the development of mGluR5-targeted therapies that heal or protect against the dysfunctional brain circuitry that characterizes alcohol addiction,” said Gil Leurquin-Sterk, M.D., first author of the study

For more information: www.snmmi.org

Related Content

New Study Redefines Therapeutic Dose Guidelines for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
News | Lung Cancer | April 23, 2019
Non-small cell lung cancer is a common cancer for both men and women. Many people who are diagnosed with this type of...
Comparison of state Medicaid fees for radiation oncology services for breast cancer and nonradiation oncology services per the Kaiser Family Foundation Index

Fig. 1: Comparison of state Medicaid fees for radiation oncology services for breast cancer and nonradiation oncology services per the Kaiser Family Foundation Index. (Agarwal et al, Red Journal, 2019) Credit: Elsevier

News | Radiation Therapy | April 22, 2019
April 22, 2019 — A new study finds wide state
Stereotactic Radiosurgery Effective for Pediatric Arteriovenous Malformation Patients
News | Radiation Therapy | April 19, 2019
Ching-Jen Chen, M.D., of the neurosurgery department at the University of Virginia (UVA) Health System, was the winner...
Video Plus Brochure Helps Patients Make Lung Cancer Scan Decision

Image courtesy of the American Thoracic Society

News | Lung Cancer | April 19, 2019
A short video describing the potential benefits and risks of low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening for lung...
Surgically Guided Brachytherapy Improves Outcomes for Intracranial Neoplasms
News | Brachytherapy Systems | April 18, 2019
Peter Nakaji, M.D., FAANS, general practice neurosurgeon at Barrow Neurological Institute, presented new research on...
Check-Cap Initiates U.S. Pilot Study of C-Scan for Colorectal Cancer Screening
News | Colonoscopy Systems | April 15, 2019
Check-Cap Ltd. has initiated its U.S. pilot study of the C-Scan system for prevention of colorectal cancer through...
Gamma Knife radiosurgery has become the preferred radiation therapy option for patients with brain tumors at facilities like the Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center, pictured here

Gamma Knife radiosurgery has become the preferred radiation therapy option for patients with brain tumors at facilities like the Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center, pictured here. The technology is favored largely for its ability to precisely target tumors while sparing healthy tissue.

Feature | Radiation Oncology | April 11, 2019 | By Jeff Zagoudis
Brain tumors are some of the most complicated forms of cancer to treat due to their extremely sensitive location.
Deep Lens Closes Series A Financing for Digital AI Pathology Platform
News | Digital Pathology | April 09, 2019
Digital pathology company Deep Lens Inc. announced the closing of a $14 million Series A financing that will further...
Uterine Fibroid Embolization Safer and as Effective as Surgical Treatment
News | Interventional Radiology | April 05, 2019
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) effectively treats uterine fibroids with fewer post-procedure complications compared...
News | Biopsy Systems | March 29, 2019
Dune Medical Devices has just completed the first in-man cases for Smart Biopsy, its percutaneous soft tissue biopsy...