Tomorrow is the big day. Much to my liver’s dismay, I’m turning 21, so I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the effects on alcohol on the brain in this post.
I searched through article databases reading abstracts about how alcohol shrinks the brain, depletes white mater, inhibits growth of and destroys neurons etc…, until I stumbled on a study that examined acutely intoxicated rat brains. Over hour intervals after alcohol exposure, researchers were able to document neuroplastic changes involving tyrosine hydroxylase, proenkephalin and cannabinoid CB(1) receptor gene expressions. That alcohol alters receptor expression in neurons is a sobering thought. It turns “I only like you when I’m drunk,” into “I only like you when I slowly alter the chemical and physical composition of my brain.” The researchers hypothesize this may play a role in addiction and the immediate feel-good affects of alcohol.
I thought about volunteering my services if the authors ever wished to document their findings in human subjects until I learned I’d have to consume 3g/kg of alcohol (which works out to be about 18 standard drinks for me… a bit too life-threatening for comfort) and that the rats were killed by decapitation (I’m attached to my head). I guess the more I think about it the less I’m interested in incurring a great deal of brain damage this weekend; I’m not sure I could make it through the rest of Neurobio firing on a few less cylinders. I might just take my shiny new ID down to the grocery store and pick me up some O’Doul’s.
Reference: Oliva JM, Ortiz S, PÃ©rez-Rial S, Manzanares J.Time dependent alterations on tyrosine hydroxylase, opioid and cannabinoid CB(1) receptor gene expressions after acute ethanol administration in the rat brain. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2007 Oct 24; [Epub ahead of print