Scientists Link Gene to Teenage Alcohol Abuse

Researchers have linked a gene known as RASGRF-2 to teenage alcohol abuse, according to a report in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.

The study found that the RASGRF-2 gene plays a crucial role in the way alcohol stimulates the brain to release dopamine, which triggers feelings of reward. Researchers noted that those with a genetic variation of the gene were more likely to be heavy drinkers, Reuters reports.

Scientists analyzed brain scans of 663 14-year-old boys and found that when they anticipated a reward in a mental test, the genetic variations to the gene had more activity to the area of the brain closely linked to the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which plays a role in releasing dopamine. Researchers checked back with the boys two years later and found that those with the RASGRF-2 gene variation drank more often than 16-year-olds without it.

As many as 2.5 million people die each year from alcohol abuse worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

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