Hypothesizing Darkness Induced Alcohol Intake Linked to Dopaminergic Regulation of Brain Function

Psychology (Irvine). 2014 Mar;5(4):282-288. doi: 10.4236/psych.2014.54038.


Understanding the role of neurotransmission in the prefrontal cortex and mesolimbic brain regions has become the subject of intensive neuroscience research worldwide. In the 1970s, our group provided evidence that rats exposed to darkness significantly augmented their alcohol intake. At that time, we proposed that melatonin was the culprit. At around the same time, our laboratory, amongst a few others, proposed that dopamine-adducts with acetaldehyde to induce alcohol intake both in rodents and in humans. While the work in these areas has declined considerably over the years, more recent scientifically sound studies continue to show the importance of these earlier controversial ideas involving alcohol abuse and alcoholism. A review of the literature has provided impetus to systematically access the newer genetic and molecular neurobiological findings relevant to the physiological and psychological motives for high alcohol consumption in animals and humans alike. Thus, we hypothesize that darkness-induced alcohol intake is linked not only to serotonergic-melatonin mechanisms, but also to dopaminergic regulation of brain mesolimbic pathways involving neuronal expression switching in response to long photoperiods affecting gene expression.

Keywords: Photoperiod; alcohol intake; dopamine; nocturnal; reward pathway; serotonin and melatonin.