Description: Given that this time of year (heading into end of term exams) is particularly stressful and anxiety provoking for college and university students I thought I would talk about three articles (this one and the two below it) that are about stress but which look at stress from a novel, hopefully distracting, perspective which could provide a brief reprieve from the exam preparation grind. The third article, linked below, looks at a long known but little understood (at the brain level) relationship between stress and alcohol use. Specifically, we’ve known for quite a while that stress, can in many cases, increase people’s tendencies to drink alcohol or to drink alcohol to excess. What we have not clearly understood yet is how all this works at the brain level. The research discussed in the article linked below used a rat model to look at the relationship between stress and certain changes in the brain. As you read through the article, in addition to paying attention to the findings about the relationship between stress and neuron functioning within the brain, also pay attention to the methodological approaches taken. For example, does the rat model used here seem to be an appropriate one? Do the steps taken by the researchers to directly test their hypotheses about changes to the brain’s neurochemistry associated with stress seem to make sense?
Source: Stress – out rats consume more alcohol, revealing related brain chemistry, ScienceDaily, Science News.
Date: November 4, 2016
Photo Credit: Roman Motizov/Fotolia
Links: Article Link — https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161104145704.htm
The research results described in the article linked above are suggesting some interesting connections between exposure distress and changes in brain physiology and neurochemistry that may be associated with increases in alcohol use. It is important to remember that this research is done using a rat model, however, the results are certainly suggestive of some possible ways in which stress and alcohol use might operate within human beings. Certainly, the possibility that drugs might be effective in blocking the brain changes linked to stress and trauma and that are associated with increased alcohol use may eventually lead to some suggestions for how best to support and treat individuals struggling with stress, trauma and alcohol related issues.
Questions for Discussion:
- What is the nature of the relationship that the research team seems to suggest exists between stress and alcohol use?
- What parts of the brain seem to be changing with exposure to stress and how do these changes relate to increase use of alcohol?
- What are some of the possible treatment avenues suggested by the results of the research discussed in the article linked above? What other research would need to be done before any of these could be tried with human beings?
References (Read Further):
Alexey Ostroumov, Alyse M. Thomas, Blake A. Kimmey, Jordan S. Karsch, William M. Doyon, John A. Dani. Stress Increases Ethanol Self-Administration via a Shift toward Excitatory GABA Signaling in the Ventral Tegmental Area. Neuron, 2016; 92 (2): 493 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.09.029
Frone, M. R. (2016). Work stress and alcohol use: Developing and testing a biphasic self-medication model. Work & Stress, 1-21.
Müller, M., Vandeleur, C., Rodgers, S., Rössler, W., Castelao, E., Preisig, M., & Ajdacic-Gross, V. (2015). Childhood adversities as specific contributors to the co-occurrence of posttraumatic stress and alcohol use disorders. Psychiatry research, 228(3), 251-256. http://www.academia.edu/download/39121029/55cf8f5008aee19936fd981b.pdf