New Discoveries About Alcoholism’s Origins in the Brain | Banyan Mass

New Discoveries About Alcoholism’s Origins in the Brain

brain next to alcohol

Many people regard issues like alcoholism as a disease or learning disorder. As alcohol hijacks brain systems and reward systems, a person’s compulsions for alcohol consumption seem uncontrollable.

New studies have identified a brainstem circuit that may be a predictor and factor in heavy compulsive alcohol consumption. This new discovery sheds light on alcoholism’s origins within the brain and offers more insight for effective alcoholism treatment around Boston.

The Brainstem and Alcoholism

  So, technically this study is about alcoholism’s predictors and markers in the brain stem. The brain stem is at the brain’s base, it controls the flow of communication between the brain and the rest of the body. It also controls basic body functions like heart rate, breathing, consciousness, and sleepiness or wakefulness.1

A newly published study has found connections between a cortical-brainstem circuit and a mouse’s likelihood of developing alcohol use disorders. Specifically, the study found that “a discrete circuit between the medial prefrontal cortex and brainstem is central for the development of compulsive drinking.” 2 Not only does this circuit predict the likelihood of developing compulsive drinking habits, it also reinforces compulsive drinking if the individual begins consuming alcohol.

This cortical-brainstem circuit responsible for predicting and reinforcing compulsive alcohol drinking does so by mitigating or mimicking punishment signals. Essentially, the subject mice of the study did not possess effective punishment signals within the brain stem to stop reinforcement of alcohol consumption.

What This Study on the Science of Alcoholism Means for Treatment

  This new discovery illustrates the importance of medical support for successful alcoholism treatment. Our program for PHP treatment near Boston gives patients the medical support they need to safely detox and address underlying medical causes of alcohol use disorder. This new discovery also illustrates how alcoholism is often something out of the alcoholic’s hands, there is often an innate propensity for alcoholism within a person’s mind or body through behavioral or deep-brain predispositions. The alcoholic is not a flawed person, but they are empowered to change their situation for the better.

At Banyan Treatment Centers Massachusetts, we are here to help those who struggle with alcoholism, alcohol use disorder, binge drinking, or other challenges. If you or a loved one needs help in getting sober, we encourage you to reach out to our team for help with recovery.

Call 888-280-4763 to learn more about our treatment programs and resources.


  1. MedicineNet - Medical Definition of Brain stem
  2. Science Mag - A cortical-brainstem circuit predicts and governs compulsive alcohol drinking

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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.