Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers reveal the mechanism by which alcohol consumption enhances social memory in mice

20.10.2005


Alcohol, like any other substance that reinforces behaviour, such as another drug of abuse or even food, has a certain capacity to enhance social memory, that is, the ability to remember other individuals. If a mouse is administered alcohol immediately after being introduced to another animal of its own kind, the former will recognise the latter sooner. This phenomenon, which has significant implications when it comes to understanding the process underlying alcohol addiction, does not have a definitive explanation. However, a team of researchers from the Psychobiology Department at the University Jaume I (Spain) has revealed a part of the mystery, since they have proved that the substance responsible for enhancing social memory is not ethanol, but another compound derived from alcohol metabolism in the brain, namely, acetaldehyde.



The UJI team, headed by Psychobiology Professor Carlos González Aragón, has been working for years conducting experiments to prove that alcohol is metabolised not only in the liver but also in certain areas of the brain where important amounts of ethanol are processed through the action of an enzyme known as catalase. The substance derived from these reactions, acetaldehyde, is involved in many of the changes of behaviour typically associated to alcohol. Catalase metabolises alcohol in the brain and gives rise to a certain amount of acetaldehyde that, according to the researchers, would be responsible for the effects attributed to ethanol. If substances that enhance the action of catalase are administered, a higher production of acetaldehyde and a boost in its effects are observed, while acetaldehyde and most of the effects of ethanol are not produced when catalase inhibitors are used after having consumed a certain amount of alcohol.

Up to now, however, researchers had proved that brain catalase was involved in the stimulating effect of ethanol, but its role in complex cognitive processes such as learning and memory had not been dealt with. The work that we are now bringing to light, and which is the main point in the thesis of researcher Héctor Marín, proves this involvement. By administering catalase enhancers and inhibitors to mice, Marín has shown how the enzyme intervenes in the reinforcement of social memory.


“This is the first study that demonstrates that the manipulation of brain catalase activity and, therefore, the presumable production of acetaldehyde in the brain, modifies the effects of ethanol on memory. In other words, the facilitating effect that ethanol has on social memory needs to previously metabolise it into acetaldehyde with the mediation of the catalase enzyme in the brain”, explains Héctor Marín.

In a first stage of the experiment, the researchers proved the enhancing effect exerted by alcohol on social memory by administering a certain dose of ethanol to an adult mouse after a first contact with a younger one. “We saw how ethanol injected into the mouse immediately after being introduced to the young mouse was able to double the capacity of the adult mouse to recognise the younger one, that is, to remember this previously introduced rodent-stimulus”, Marín points out.

In a second stage, the researchers at the UJI repeated the experiment, but they administered some catalase inhibitors to the adult mouse, and enzyme activity was thus severely limited. The results showed that, even though the rodent’s brain was receiving the same amount of alcohol as in the previous experiment, the ability of the adult mouse to remember the younger one was the same as that of a mouse that had not been injected with alcohol. “This suggests that our pre-treatments with catalase inhibitors do not modify the concentration of alcohol that reaches the brain from the bloodstream; rather, what they do is modify the ability of catalase to transform this ethanol into acetaldehyde directly in the brain,” adds Héctor Marín.

For the researchers, the results of the study have significant implications in the knowledge of how the mechanism explaining alcohol addiction works. In actual fact, every reinforcing substance has some memory enhancing effects and the way in which a particular drug affects the memory processes may be fundamental in order to understand its addictive power, claim the UJI researchers. In this case, some authors are beginning to replace the concept of alcoholism with that of acetaldehydism, for the very reason that acetaldehyde could play a key role in the development of addiction to alcohol. “If this is true, blocking the production of acetaldehyde directly in the brain could protect against or prevent alcoholism”, concludes Marín.

Hugo Cerdà | alfa
Further information:
http://www.uji.es

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh

nachricht Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>