Effect of alcohol on memory?
The consumption of alcohol can lead to negative consequences for body and mind. Researchers have now discovered that even small amounts of alcohol can affect memory for several hours and also have a strong effect on our reward centre in the brain.
In their recent study, Brown University scientists found that even a single alcoholic drink can worsen memory for hours. The physicians published the results of their study in the English-language journal “Neuron”.
Research conducted on fruit flies
A single molecular change could explain why even a few glasses of wine affect memory for several days and why alcoholics relapse after decades of abstinence, the scientists claim. In their research, the experts used fruit flies to understand how alcohol affects the brain. They discovered a previously unknown way in which alcohol alters certain regions of our brain that are associated with positive experiences and cravings.
Alcohol disturbs the reward centre
While flies have much fewer neurons than humans, they still share some central characteristics. One of the areas disturbed by alcohol is the key to the way animals store and process rewarding experiences. This may help explain why the harm of alcohol is ignored and accepted by addicts. Drugs such as alcohol, opiates, cocaine, and methamphetamine have strong side effects. Alcohol, for example, often causes nausea and a hangover the next morning. The scientists asked themselves why people still drink alcohol and are happy to accept these effects for intoxication.
Notch-Weg played an important role
The physicians tried to understand on a molecular level what influence drugs and alcohol have on memory and our memories and why they sometimes cause a real hunger. By studying flies used to alcohol, researchers were able to monitor the nerve tracts and genetic signals that light up when they develop a craving. A key system was a group of cellular mechanisms that play a crucial role in the development of the brain and nervous system of many living beings (including fruit flies and humans) – known as the Notch Way. In the cell, this works like a chain of dominoes, starting with an initial Notch receptor that activates a chain of other cellular processes, the experts explain.
Dopamine receptor influenced
In alcohol-addicted flies, the experts found that exposure to alcohol led to changes in the Notch cascade. One change concerned the effect of a large receptor molecule on nerve cells, which helps to detect dopamine. This dopamine receptor is known to be involved in coding whether a memory is stored as pleasing or aversive, the authors of the study say.
How do some glasses of wine affect the metabolic pathway?
If the process is similar in humans, one glass of wine is sufficient to activate the metabolic pathway. Within an hour, however, this process returns to normal. After three glasses, each with a break of one hour between consumption, the pathway does not normalise even after 24 hours. The researchers think that this persistence probably alters the gene expression in storage circuits. This would most likely also apply to other forms of addiction if the results could be transferred to humans.
Alcohol can control memory mechanisms
This study suggests that drug addiction and alcohol addiction persist because memory mechanisms were influenced by alcohol and drugs and were quasi adopted and controlled. The study not only provides a model for understanding the persistence of drug addiction, it also identifies potential pharmacological targets for the treatment of addiction.