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A single sip can change the brain – healing practice



Alcohol: a single sip can alter brain synapses

We hear or read again and again that it is healthy to drink a glass of red wine every day. On the other hand, however, is constantly confronted with the risks of alcohol consumption warned. A study has shown that even small amounts of alcohol Brain Can change.

As one study has shown, even a single dose of alcohol – ethanol – can permanently alter synapses and the movement of mitochondria in nerve cells in the brain. This has consequences for the brain’s reward learning and can eventually lead to alcohol dependence later on. The results of the study were published in the journal “PNAS‘ (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

basis of alcohol addiction

A research team from the University of Cologne and the universities of Mannheim and Heidelberg came to the conclusion of the study that even the single administration of alcohol continuously morphology neurons have changed.

Love it in one Message In other words, the structure of synapses and the dynamics of mitochondria – the energy powerhouses of the cell – are influenced by alcohol.

With the help of the genetic model system Drosophila melanogaster, a fruit fly, at the University of Cologne in the working group of Prof. Dr. Henrike Scholz and his colleagues Michèle Tegtmeier and Michael Berger show that changes in the migration of mitochondria in synapses gratifying effect reduced by alcohol.

This Results suggest that even a single drink can lay the groundwork for alcohol dependence.

From sporadic consumption to chronic alcohol abuse

The joint research project with working groups from the universities of Mannheim and Heidelberg and the University of Cologne investigated which changes in the brain are responsible for the shift from sporadic to chronic drinking alcohol abuse to accompany.

Most scientific research has looked at the effects of chronic alcohol consumption on the hippocampus – the control center of the brain. Therefore, little is known about the acute neuron interrelations critical risk factors, such as first poisoning at an early age.

“We set out to discover ethanol-dependent molecular changes. These in turn form the basis for permanent cellular changes after a one-time acute attack. ethanol poisoning. The effects of a single dose of alcohol have been studied at molecular, cellular and behavioral levels.explains Henrike Scholz.

the work hypothesis researchers was that similar to memory formation after a single learning session, the positive association with alcohol changes after a single dose of ethanol.

changes in two areas

The scientists tested their hypothesis based on fruit fly and mouse model research and were able to identify ethanol-induced changes in two areas: so-called mitochondrial dynamics and the balance between synapses nerve cells.

mitochondria supply the cells and in particular the nerve cells with energy. In order to be able to optimally transfer energy to the cells, the mitochondria move. Their movement was disrupted in ethanol-treated cells. And the chemical balance between certain synapses was also disturbed.

According to the information, these changes remained permanent and could be confirmed by behavioral changes in animals: mice and fruit flies showed an increase in alcohol consumption and a alcohol relapse later in life.

basis of learning and memory

The morphological transformation of Neurons is a known basis for learning as well as memory. These so-called cellular plasticity mechanisms, which are central to learning and memory, would also be central to the formation of associative memory for drug-related rewards.

Therefore, some of the observed morphological changes could be related to ethanol memory formation radiation.

Along with the migration of mitochondria into nerve cells, which are also important for synaptic transmission and plasticity, researchers believe that these ethanol-dependent cellular changes lay crucial foundations for the development of addictive behavior are.

“It is remarkable that the cellular processes that lead to such a complex reward behavior contribute are conserved across species, suggesting a similar role in humans,” Scholz said. “It could be a possible general cellular process essential for learning and memory.”

Even intoxication can increase alcohol relapses later in life

The two mechanisms observed could explain the observations made in mice according to which already a unique poisoning can increase alcohol consumption and alcohol relapses later in life.

“These mechanisms might even be relevant to the observation in humans that an early age of first alcohol intoxication is a critical factor risk factor for subsequent alcohol intoxication behavior and the development of alcohol dependence”explains Professor Henrike Scholz.

“Identifying persistent ethanol-dependent changes is therefore an important first step in understanding how acute consumption becomes chronic. alcohol abuse can grow.” (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


  • University of Cologne: A single sip of alcohol changes the brain (Accessed: August 30, 2022), University of Cologne
  • Johannes Knabbe, Jil Protzmann, Niklas Schneider, et al. : Single-Dose Ethanol Intoxication Causes Acute and Long-Lasting Neuronal Changes in the Brain; in: PNAS, (published: 06/14/2022), PNAS

Important Note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.

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