Single Dose Of Alcohol Can Permanently Alter Brain, Affect Energy Supply: Study


Even the single administration of alcohol can permanently alter the brain, and affect energy supply in the body, a new study has found. This is because alcohol influences the morphology of neurons, or nerve cells, the structure of synapses (points of contact between neurons where information is passed from one neuron to the next), and the dynamics of mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of the cell. Mitochondria generate energy for the cell. Researchers from the University of Cologne and University of Mannheim-Heidelberg used the genetic model system of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to study the effect of alcohol on mitochondria.

The study describing the findings was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Researchers Used Genetic System Of Fruit Fly To Conduct The Study

Professor Henrike Scholz and her team members Michle Tegtmeier und Michael Berger used the genetic system of Drosophila melanogaster to show that changes in the migration of mitochondria in the synapses reduce the rewarding effect of alcohol.

The objective of the study was to determine which changes in the brain accompany the transition from sporadic drinking to chronic alcohol abuse. The study found that even a single consumption event can lay the foundation for alcohol addiction.

What Is Alcohol Intoxication?

Most scientific research has examined the effects of chronic alcohol consumption on the hippocampus, the control center of the brain, and as a result, little is known about the acute neuronal interactions of critical risk factors, such as a first alcohol intoxication at an early age . Alcohol intoxication is a disturbance in mental function or behavior after alcohol consumption.

Alcohol Alters Brain, Reduces Energy Supply

In a statement released by the University of Cologne, Henrike Scholz said the team set out to discover ethanol-dependent molecular changes which, in turn, provide the basis for permanent cellular changes following a single acute ethanol intoxication.

Scholz said that the effects of a single alcohol administration were examined at the molecular, cellular and behavioral levels. The study hypothesised that, similar to the formation of memory after a single lesson, a single administration of ethanol would form a positive association with alcohol.

The researchers tested this hypothesis using research in fruit flies and mouse models. They observed ethanol-induced changes in two areas, namely, mitochondrial dynamics, and the balance between synapses in neurons.

The function of mitochondria is to supply cells, including nerve cells, with energy. The mitochondria move to optimally deliver the energy to the cells. However, when the cells were treated with ethanol, the movement of mitochondria was disturbed. Also, the chemical balance between certain synapses was disturbed. These changes remained permanent, the study found. Behavioural changes in animals confirmed the disturbances in movement of mitochondria and the negative effects on synapses. Increased alcohol consumption and alcohol relapse were observed in the mice and fruit flies.

Some of the morphological changes in neurons can lead to ethanol-related memory formation, eventually resulting in the development of addictive behaviours.

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