Research published in the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), at the Universities of Cologne and Manheim-Heidelberg, both in Germany, confirmed that a single ingested dose of alcohol permanently alters the morphology of neurons. brain. Specifically, alcohol affects synapse structure and mitochondrial dynamics.
Using the fly genetic system model Drosophila Melanogaster (popularly known as the fruit fly or vinegar fly), the researchers found that changes in mitochondria migration at synapses reduce the kickback effect of alcohol.
The results suggest that even small amounts of alcohol are consumed, such amounts can trigger the onset of addiction. Now, another research aims to answer the following question: What changes in the brain accompany the transition from sporadic to high doses, leading to alcohol abuse?
Much of the study focused on examining the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on the hippocampus, the brain’s central control. Therefore, little is known about the acute neuronal interactions of critical risk factors, such as a first alcohol intoxication at an early age, the researchers explained.
“We are trying to discover alcohol-dependent molecular changes. Such changes provide the basis for permanent cellular changes after a single acute alcohol intoxication. The effects of a single dose of the drink were examined at the molecular, cellular and behavioral levels”, said Professor and Doctor Henrike Scholz, leader of the research.
That is, the thesis is that, in the same way that non-volatile memory is formed after learning anything, no matter how simple, a single, small dose of alcohol can form a positive association with drinking in the brain. .
Tests were carried out on mice and fruit flies.
The hypotheses were tested in fruit flies and in rats, revealing alcohol-induced changes in two areas of the brains of these animals: In mitochondrial dynamics and in the balance between synapses in neurons.
Mitochondria deliver energy to cells, especially nerve cells. To optimize the delivery of this energy, the mitochondria move. This movement was disrupted in alcohol-affected cells, as well as the chemical balance between certain synapses.
Such changes proved to be permanent and were confirmed by the behavioral changes of the animals, which began to consume more alcohol and had relapses throughout their lives.
Cellular changes may be vital for addiction development
The morphological remodeling of neurons is a well-known basis for learning and memory. These so-called cellular plasticity mechanisms, which are vital for learning and memory, are also thought to be at the heart of the formation of associative memories for drug-related rewards.
Therefore, some of the morphological changes observed may influence the formation of memory related to alcohol consumption. In conjunction with the migration of mitochondria into neurons, which are also important for synaptic transmission and plasticity, the researchers speculate that these alcohol-dependent cellular changes are critical for the development of addictive behaviors.
“It is notable that the cellular processes that contribute to such rewarding behavior are repeated across different animal species, which suggests something similar in humans. This could be a general cellular process essential for learning and memory,” Scholz said.
Both of these observed mechanisms may explain observations made in rats that a simple intoxication experience can increase alcohol consumption and relapse later in their lives.
“Such mechanisms may even be relevant to the observation in humans that the first alcohol intoxication at an early age is a critical risk factor for later intoxication and the development of alcohol addiction”, explained the professor.
The doctor concluded his explanation by saying that “this means that identifying lasting changes in addicts is an important first step in understanding how heavy drinking can turn into alcohol abuse in the future.”
With information from Medical Xpress
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