Who Is at Risk?

Grant, Kathleen A.; Stafford, James; Thiede, Allison; Kiley, Caitlin; Odagiri, Misa; Ferguson, Betsy
December 2008
Alcohol Research & Health;2008, Vol. 31 Issue 4, p289
Academic Journal
Alcohol abuse and dependence are human conditions for which no full equivalent exists in animals. Nevertheless, animal models frequently are used to study various aspects of alcohol dependence that cannot be easily or ethically assessed in humans, including neurobiological mechanisms underlying alcohol dependence. Many of these animal models involve rodents; however, the characteristics (i.e., phenotypes) of chronic heavy drinking may be limited in these species. Nonhuman primates add an important translational aspect to the study of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Their genetic, anatomical, physiological, and behavioral similarity to humans offers unique opportunities for identifying risk factors that may predispose a person to or accelerate the course of alcohol addiction. Studying alcohol consumption in nonhuman primates, including the distribution of drinking levels in a population, also can be uniquely informative to alcohol research. For example, research on the selfadministration procedures in primates can help scientists identify risk factors for excessive alcohol consumption in humans. The phenotype of excessive drinking then can serve as the starting point to test and verify the underlying genetic and environmental influences. The resulting findings, in turn, can help guide prevention and treatment strategies.


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