Alcohol Found to Alter Molecular Basis of Memory Formation

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Research study conducted at Brown University reported that alcohol captures a conserved memory pathway in the brain that changes memory formation at molecular level

Excessive alcohol consumption leading to several disorders is major health concern across the world. More than 15 million people in the United States struggle with an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol addiction may influence to develop the disease have yet to be identified. Psychological, genetic, and behavioral factors to contribute to the development of alcohol addiction. Furthermore, alcohol addiction leads to severe incidences such as accidents while driving and wide range of health complications associated with heart disease and liver disease.

Alcohol addiction treatment is challenging due to risk of relapse, which can occur even after many years of good progress towards recovery. The molecular signals involved in the formation of reward and avoidance memories in humans are the same for fruit flies, which makes fruit fly a good model for study. Recent study used fruit files as model to examine effects of alcohol on memory formation. Their research, which used genetic tools to selectively turn off key genes while training the flies where to find alcohol, showed that the protein ‘Notch’ was needed to elicit the flies’ preference for alcohol. Notch sets in motion a cascade of events that ultimately leads to expression of receptors that recognizes dopamine, the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter.

Alcohol forms cravings by taking over conserved memory pathway responsible for encoding whether or not a memory is pleasing. Although alcohol did not increase the expression of the dopamine receptor protein, it altered the protein sequence by a single amino acid. Furthermore, the team will be working on examining effects of opiates on the same conserved molecular pathways, as it is likely that similar mechanisms are involved in other form of addictions.

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