A study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal found that a gene known as RASGRF-2 plays a crucial role in controlling how alcohol stimulates the brain to release dopamine, triggering feelings of reward. Alcohol activates the brain's dopamine systems, which stimulates feelings of pleasure and reward.
To begin this study, scientists looked at the brains of mice who had the RASGRF2 gene removed to see how they handles alcohol. Scientist discovered the gene was linked to a great reduction in alcohol-seeking behavior. They also found when the mice consumed alcohol, less dopamine was released into the body, reducing the sense of reward.
The committee continues to analyze the brains of 663 14-year old boys and found that when they were anticipating a reward in a mental test, those with variations of the RASGR2 gene had more brain activity. This suggests people with a variation of the gene release more dopamine when anticipating a reward, therefore they receive more pleasure from it.
Two years later the team analyzed the same group of boys. They found the same boys with the gene variation drank more often then those who didn't.
"People seek out situations which fulfill their sense of reward and make them happy, so if your brain is wired to find alcohol rewarding, you will seek it out," Schumann said in a statement about the research. "We now understand the chain of action: how our genes shape this function in our brains and how that, in turn, leads to human behavior."
I thought this article was interesting! It's interesting to see why some people drink more than others. Although it seems as though this study leads me to ask how the "binge" aspect of drinking was analyzed in this study. In other words, I feel as though the study is drawing conclusions too soon. There is a difference between drinking and binge drinking, which I don't think is made clear in this study. It's also possible that the boys had lied about their drinking practices, as I'm assuming most 16-year olds don't want to reveal their true alcoholic beverage consumption levels. Lastly, it's also possible the scientists were biased, since it appears they knew which boys had gene variations and which ones didn't.