2018-11-07 22:44:20 UTC
How Drinking Whisky Alters Our Memories, According To A New Study
by George Koutsakis, Nov 6, 2018, forbes.com
A new study held at Brown University by a group of researchers has
shown that drinking alcoholic drinks, like whisky, spirits, and other
drinks can affect how memories are formed. Even a few drinks can
kickstart the memory-changing process, which can further cause
cravings and eventual addiction.
For this particular study, fruit flies were examined as their
molecular signals concerning reward or avoidance memory formation are
very similar to those of humans. They are also attracted to alcohol
and the sugars inside, as many beer drinkers will know. The results of
the study found that alcohol consumption changes certain proteins
responsible for memory formation, a change which can create cravings.
Karla Kaun is the assistant professor of neuroscience at Brown
University and a senior author on this paper, which was published in
the journal Neuron. At first, Kaun sought to understand why drugs and
alcohol produce such happy, rewarding memories. Working with fellow
researchers, undergraduates, the team came to some important
'All drugs of abusealcohol, opiates, cocaine, methamphetaminehave
adverse side effects. They make people nauseous or they give people
hangovers, so why do we find them so rewarding? Why do we remember the
good things about them and not the bad? My team is trying to
understand on a molecular level what drugs of abuse are doing to
memories and why theyre causing cravings.'
If research showed which molecules and proteins were being affected by
alcohol, Kaun hoped it would put doctors in a better position to help
addicts by altering the intensity of the cravings. In the case of
fruit flies, genetic manipulation allowed the researchers to turn
specific genes on and off, thus understanding which pathways were
involved in the formation of rewarding memories born through alcohol
consumption. It was discovered that instead of turning off dopamine-2
(which tells us if a memory is pleasing or not), alcohol consumption
altered it completely by changing a single part of the protein.
'We dont know what the biological consequences of that small change
are, but one of the important findings from this study is that
scientists need to look not only at which genes are being turned on
and off, but which forms of each gene are getting turned on and off,'
Kaun said. 'We think these results are highly likely to translate to
other forms of addiction, but nobody has investigated that.
'If this works the same way in humans, one glass of wine is enough to
activate the pathway, but it returns to normal within an hour. After
three glasses, with an hour break in between, the pathway doesnt
return to normal after 24 hours. We think this persistence is likely
what is changing the gene expression in memory circuits.'
While this shouldn't put anyone off alcohol consumption completely,
especially leading up to to the holidays, it's an important
breakthrough and hopefully one that will help alcoholics and addicts
in the near future. The team is continuing their research, and Kaun is
also working with John McGeary, an assistant professor of psychiatry
and human behaviour, to examine DNA samples from alcohol abuse
patients and determine whether genetic changes in any of the
craving-related genes discovered in the fruit flies are present.
'Just something to keep in mind the next time you split a bottle of
wine with a friend or spouses,' Kaun adds.