Toronto | Not just the drink, but fancy glasswares and sight of liquor stores can lead one towards alcohol addiction, scientists including those of Indianorigin suggest. Humans are not much different from other animals.
Just like dogs, we can become conditioned to associate environmental cues with rewards, researchers said. For example, the sight of sneakers may make one want to go for a run. However, such behaviour may be problematic when the sight of the liquor store prompts one to want a drink.
Cues linked to alcohol, such as fancy glassware, can lead us toward addiction, researchers said. Sometimes such cues can themselves become desirable. Alcohol addiction is compounded by our ability to learn about predictive cues, said Nadia Chaudhri, professor at Concordia University in Canada.
Conditioned reactions to those cues can trigger behaviours that result in drinking, like turning into a liquor store or reaching for a beer, Chaudhri said. The results of the study suggest that cues linked to alcohol can become highly desirable; therefore, people may keep drinking because of the pleasure derived from our interactions with them.
Drinkers wishing to make a change in their habits should not just focus on the booze itself, but on all the factors that surround alcohol consumption, researchers said. Many people have specialised glassware for different kinds of drinks, and strong preferences for what they drink, Chaudhri said.
These preferences could be driven by the sensory properties of alcohol, like its taste, smell and how it looks, she said. It is important for people to realise that drinking alcohol is a complex behaviour, and in addition to what alcohol does to our brains, it also plays a role in regulating our behaviours, Chaudhri said.
Researchers, including former Concordia student Chandra Srey, worked with 25 lab rats conditioned to associate a specific cue with the presence of ethanol the main kind of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks. They paired a visual cue with the ethanol so that rats would come to expect alcohol every time they saw that cue.
Eventually, when the cue was presented, rats approached the location where alcohol was about to be delivered. However, after a time they stopped performing this behaviour and instead began approaching and interacting with the cue. This happened even though the rats gained nothing by playing with the cue, and would actually have been better served by approaching the location where alcohol was about to be delivered.
The researchers also noted that the rats would work to earn presentations of a cue that was previously paired with alcohol, even when alcohol was not dispensed along with that cue. The results suggest that a cue linked to alcohol can become highly desirable. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience.
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