Genes May Be Blamed for Violent Drunks Study Points to Level of Brain Chemical

Article excerpt

Finnish researchers have found chemical differences in the brains of violent and non-violent alcoholics, a finding that suggests that genes may contribute to drinking behavior.

Experts say the study, which was published in the journal Nature Medicine, could open new avenues for understanding and treating alcoholism.

Jari Tiihonen and his colleagues at the University of Kuopio in Finland found that where the two kinds of alcoholics differed was in the levels of the brain chemical dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a messenger between nerve cells, one of several that have been linked to emotion and arousal. Dopamine also is linked to control of movement: As Parkinson's patients' dopamine levels diminish, their symptoms of muscle tremor and rigidity worsen. The majority of patients also suffer clinical depression.

Tiihonen and his colleagues studied the amount of dopamine in the brains of 48 men. Among the group, 19 men began drinking in their teens and became violent when intoxicated. Another group of 10 men started drinking heavily in their mid-20s but were not violent. …