(ORDO NEWS) — The scientists looked at the various effects of a single exposure to ethanol at the molecular, cellular, and behavioral levels.
Even a single ethanol intoxication leads to acute and persistent changes in the brain, German scientists from the University Hospital of Heidelberg, as well as Heidelberg and Cologne universities reported.
In their experiments, alcohol in particular affected synapse balance and mitochondrial dynamics in mice and fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster.
Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages in youth is a risk factor for the formation of alcohol dependence in the future.
In addition to personal problems, this disorder is associated with brain damage, the development of dementia, cancer, trauma, liver problems, depression, an increased risk of suicide, and so on.
But what brain changes accompany the transition from sporadic to chronic drinking? The authors of most scientific papers have studied the effect of alcohol addiction on the hippocampus, a part of the limbic system of the brain.
However, the aim of the German researchers was to identify long-term changes that could mediate the “memory” of ethanol exposure.
“We wanted to identify ethanol-dependent molecular changes. They lay the foundation for permanent cellular changes after a single acute ethanol intoxication.
We studied the effects of a single dose of alcohol at the molecular, cellular and behavioral levels,” the scientists said.
Their hypothesis was that, similar to the formation of memory after one lesson, even one dose of ethanol can cause addiction.
To find the neural molecular correlates of acute ethanol intoxication, experiments were performed on mice and fruit flies.
As a result, changes caused by alcohol intake were revealed, firstly, in the dynamics of mitochondria, which plays a role in the ability of hypothalamic neurons to control glucose levels and energy homeostasis in the body, and secondly, in the balance between synapses , that is, the points of contact of two neurons.
“By imaging the brains of mice exposed to acute ethanol exposure, we detected acute and long-lasting molecular, cellular and behavioral changes after a single ethanol intoxication in previously alcohol-free animals.
Immunofluorescent analysis also revealed a shortening of the initial segments of the axon (it has a higher excitability compared to other parts of the neuron.
Taken together, our data suggest that a single exposure to ethanol causes changes that, in turn, may contribute to the emergence of dependence on ethanol, ”the authors of the new work said.
The changes provoked by alcohol intake remained constant: at a later age, mice and fruit flies were observed to abuse ethanol with subsequent relapse.
A similar cellular process occurs in humans, the scientists say, and finding persistent changes due to a single exposure to ethanol is the first step to understanding how small doses of alcohol at an early age can later turn into addiction.
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