Fly larvae fed on alcohol-spiked food for a period of days grow dependent on those spirits for learning. The findings, reported in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, on November 29th, show how overuse of alcohol can produce lasting changes in the brain, even after alcohol abuse stops.
The report also provides evidence that the very human experience of alcoholism can be explored in part with studies conducted in fruit flies and other animals, the researchers say.
"Our evidence supports the long-ago proposed idea that functional ethanol tolerance is produced by adaptations that counter the effects of ethanol, and that these adaptations help the nervous system function more normally when ethanol is present," says Brooks Robinson of The University of Texas at Austin. "However, when ethanol is withheld, the adaptations persist to give the nervous system abnormal properties that manifest themselves as symptoms of withdrawal."
Robinson and his colleagues found that alcohol consumption, at a level equivalent to mild intoxication in humans, at first impeded learning by fly larvae. More specifically, those larvae had some trouble in associating an unpleasant heat pulse with an otherwise attractive odor in comparison to larvae that had not been drinking alcohol.
After a six-day drinking binge, however, those larvae adapted and could learn as well as normal larvae could. In fact, the alcohol-adapted animals learned poorly when their ethanol was taken away from them. And, when given alcohol back, their learning deficit was erased.
Robinson says that the findings are the first proof of cognitive ethanol dependence in an invertebrate, suggesting that some of ethanol's ability to change behavior must begin at the cellular level. After all, flies and humans share many of the same features at the level of individual neurons, and not so much in terms of the way those neurons are put together into working circuits.
The study also shows that the "responses to ethanol that addict and plague us" have a very long evolutionary history, Robinson says. And that means that genetic analysis in flies might yield some very important answers.
Robinson et al.: "Neural Adaptation Leads to Cognitive Ethanol Dependence."
Cell Press: http://www.cellpress.com
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
A wild male marmoset is filmed embracing and caring for his dying female partner.
A neuroscientist and a musician explain how they built the Brain Stethoscope, which is both brain scanner and musical instrument
Museum staff will ditch the bubble wrap in favor of custom-molded plaster cradles when shipping a Tyrannosaurus rex to Washington, D.C.
The direction you're moving can play tricks with your mind. That can mean trouble not only for travel but for human relations too
In Missing Microbes, Dr. Martin Blaser argues that the overuse of antibiotics, as well as now-common practices like C-sections, may be messing with gut microbes.
Scientists have figured out one reason women might be more vulnerable to Alzheimer's: A risk gene doubles women's chances of getting the disease but has minimal effect on men.
Harvestmen (also known as daddy long legs) aren’t spiders, and if you could (or wanted to) lean close enough, you’d be able to see one of the few physical features that distinguish them from their arachnid cousins. It’s in the eyes: Spiders usually have 6 or more, but the harvestman has only one set, tightly […]
Cuttlefish are far and away nature’s most adept camouflagers, capable of observing their surroundings and perfectly adjusting not only their color but also their skin texture in just 250 milliseconds. And it’s not just about blending in: They can also launch truly bizarre displays of rippling colors to either intimidate rivals or hypnotize prey. Oh, also. They’re color blind. Yeah … scientists aren’t quite sure how that’s possible quite yet.
Virtual records of fragile archaeological sites will preserve them for future generations when it's not possible to defend them from the elements
Holy Da Vinci Code! Chemical and epigraphic analyses suggest the "Gospel of Jesus's Wife" could be real.