An anti-anxiety drug has been found to have the ability to reboot our brains and reverse the negative effects alcohol has on our brains, according to researchers at the Queensland Univesity of Technology.
Tandospirone, a drug with anxiolytic and antidepressant properties, may help reverse neurogenic deficits caused by chronic alcohol consumption, according to a study in Scientific Reports.
Tandospirone acts selectively on a serotonin receptor (5-HT1A).
Alcohol has always been known to cause damage to the brain but findings of the new study, which were published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed for the first time that tandospirone could reverse the deficit induced by alcohol consumption on brain neurogenesis, the process by which new neurons are formed.
Additionally, the drug, which is closely related to the nonbenzodiazepine buspirone, was shown to be effective in reducing anxiety caused by alcohol withdrawal.
"We know that with heavy drinking you are inhibiting your ability to grow new neurons, brain cells".
Professor Bartlett, who is based at the Translational Research Institute, said the discovery by study co-authors QUT postdoctoral research fellows Dr Arnauld Belmer and Dr Omkar Patkar came about serendipitously after research started in a different direction. Alcohol is specifically very damaging for neurons.
"This opens the way to look at if neurogenesis is associated with other substance-abuse deficits, such as in memory and learning, and whether this compound can reverse these".
"It is commonly used there and shown to be highly effective in treating general anxiety and well tolerated with limited adverse effects", Bartlett says.
Bartlett said that tandospirone does not just show promise in helping reduce binge drinking.
The researchers are constantly looking at new treatment strategies for alcohol abuse and addiction, which is characterised by extended periods of heavy alcohol use, binges and abstinence, and anxiety and depression which contribute to relapse.