Alcohol Use in Early Adolescence may Alter Reward Motivation

The brain responds to rewarding stimuli by increasing the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. When we feel motivated, it is because our brain anticipates this dopamine reward.
The transition from early to mid-adolescence is associated with increased reward sensitivity and reward-seeking behavior, a consequence of normal brain development. This heightened sensitivity or prioritization of reward can be thought of as reflecting a greater motivation to obtain rewards. A new study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, has addressed whether drinking alcohol in early adolescence might impact the brain’s reward systems, by examining associations between alcohol initiation and subsequent changes in reward motivation while accounting for baseline scores. Differences between boys and girls were also evaluated.

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Researchers Find New Role for Dopamine in Gene Transcription and Cell Proliferation

A joint group of researchers at the George Washington University and the University of Pittsburgh have found that dopamine and the dopamine D2 receptor modulate expression via the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. This pathway is responsible for control of cell proliferation and organ identity and is implicated in cancer, thus having broad implications for health and development of new therapeutics

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