Alcohol dependency and abuse are two of the most common mental disorders in the world today, affecting an estimated 13 percent of the general population in the United States alone. The conditions are mostly caused by the fact that many people tend to treat their hangovers with additional drinking. This is a very fast way of becoming addicted to alcohol, researchers say. In order to curb the habit, scientists are working on discovering the mechanisms that cause hangovers, potentially leading to new treatments against alcohol dependency. A huge leap forward was recently made in this field.
A group of researchers managed to identify a molecule that was apparently responsible for producing the hangover symptoms people experienced after a night of drinking. The group reveals that, when the brain is trying to cope with the aftershocks of intoxication, it releases a wide range of substances that are partially responsible for what we perceive as hangovers. The new investigation was conducted on batches of C. elegans worms. These creatures' brains behave in manners surprisingly similar to our own when intoxicated, so they provide specialists the perfect means to study the effects of alcohol.
University of Southampton School of Biological Sciences neuroscientists determined that the withdrawal-like symptoms appeared after the brain had been subjected to various levels of intoxication for a long time. This makes it get accustomed to the alcohol, and experience a series of negative effects when the stimuli disappear. This was found to be true both for the human and the C. elegans brains. In their studies, the experts determined that a brain-signaling molecule (a neuropeptide) was responsible for most of the symptoms associated with hangovers, including anxiety, agitation, and seizures.
“This research showed the worms displaying effects of the withdrawal of alcohol and enables us to define how alcohol affects signaling in nerve circuits which leads to changes in behavior,” Southampton Neurosciences Group (SoNG) member Lindy Holden-Dye explains. The expert is also a professor and a neuroscientist at the university's School of Biological Sciences, LiveScience reports. “This is leading to new ideas for the treatment of alcoholism. Our study provides a very effective experimental system to tackle this problem,” the expert explains. Details of the research appear in the latest issue of the online open-access scientific journal PLoS One, a publication of the Public Library of Sciences.