Glutamate levels in the brain may be linked to alcohol craving

Craving consists of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral elements related to a desire to drink alcohol, and can be experienced during intoxication, withdrawal, and/or prior to relapse. Different types of craving are hypothesized to be associated with different neurotransmitter systems. For example, reward craving may be mediated by dopamine and opioids, obsessive craving by serotonin, and relief craving by glutamate. This study used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) to examine the correlation between craving and glutamate levels in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (LDLPFC) of patients with alcohol use disorders (AUDs).emotions01

Fourteen participants (8 females, 6 males) underwent 1H-MRS to measure glutamate levels in the LDLPFC. Researchers also used the Pennsylvania Alcohol Craving Scale (PACS) and a research-validated interview method to quantify craving for alcohol and drinking patterns, respectively.

Although the study sample is small, these data suggest that glutamate levels in the LDLPFC are associated with alcohol-craving intensity in patients with AUDs. Glutamate spectroscopy may be able to help identify biological measures of alcohol-craving intensity and help with treatment interventions.

  1. Mark A. Frye, David J. Hinton, Victor M. Karpyak, Joanna M. Biernacka, Lee J. Gunderson, Jennifer Geske, Scott E. Feeder, Doo-Sup Choi, John D. Port. Elevated Glutamate Levels in the Left Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Are Associated with Higher Cravings for Alcohol. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/acer.13131
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