A single molecular change could help explain why a few glasses of wine can impair your memory for days and why alcoholics are liable to relapse after decades of abstinence – scientists have said.
US neuroscientists using fruit flies to understand the chemical levers that alcohol pulls in the brain have found a new way it changes regions linked to positive experiences and cravings.
While flies have just 100,000 neurons to the 100 billion in humans they share some core features, and one of the shared areas disrupted by alcohol is key to the way animals learn to chase rewarding experiences.
This could help explain why the harms of alcohol – from hangovers to more serious issues associated with addiction – are discounted by addicts – researchers from Brown University researchers said.
‘All drugs of abuse – alcohol – opiates – cocaine – methamphetamine – have adverse side effects.
They make people nauseous or they give people hangovers – so why do we find them so rewarding?’ said lead author Dr Karla Kaun – an assistant professor of neuroscience.
‘My team is trying to understand on a molecular level what drugs of abuse are doing to memories and why they’re causing cravings’.