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  • Writer's pictureKaun Lab

Alcohol and drugs rewire your brain by changing how your genes work

Updated: Jun 12

Dynamic Gene Expression Within The Brain

Dynamic Gene Expression Within The Brain: Within each neuron in the brain, how tightly DNA is wound around or bound to histones and other proteins determines which genes are expressed and which proteins are produced. Karla Kaun and Vinald Francis, CC BY-ND

Teaser by Editor Vivian Lam:

Addiction has a genetic basis – not just in how certain genes can influence the risk of developing a substance use disorder, but also in how alcohol and drugs themselves can change how your genes work.

Behavioral neurogeneticist Karla Kaun has spent the past decade studying the molecular underpinnings of addiction, dissecting how alcohol and drugs affect genes in the brain. Researchers know these effects are often centered on areas of the brain involved in reward and memory, but disentangling the interplay between the various factors that can modify genes, including exposure to addictive substances, is a complex challenge.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Rather than discouraging researchers, this complexity is empowering because it provides evidence that changes to gene expression in your brain aren’t permanent,” Kaun writes. “They can also be altered by medications and lifestyle choices.”

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