Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wake Forest Investigator Shows New Way That Alcohol Affects Brain

Date:
July 8, 2002
Source:
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Summary:
A Wake Forest University School of Medicine researcher challenged a commonly accepted view on how alcohol acts in the brain in a plenary session presentation at the Research Society on Alcoholism meeting in San Francisco.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (July 1, 2002) -– A Wake Forest University School of Medicine researcher today challenged a commonly accepted view on how alcohol acts in the brain in a plenary session presentation at the Research Society on Alcoholism meeting in San Francisco.

Related Articles


Jeffrey Weiner Ph. D., 2001 winner of the society's Young Investigator Award, said many scientists had thought for years that one of the ways that alcohol works was in much the same way as benzodiazepines (such as Valium and Xanax) or barbiturates (such as Nembutal). "But recent data from our laboratory and others challenge this concept and suggest that alcohol may have more complex effects."

Weiner's work focuses on what is called the GABA synapse which he says contributes to many of alcohol's behavioral and cognitive effects, especially intoxication, dependence and withdrawal. "The GABA synapse is the main inhibitory synapse in the brain."

The synapse is the gap between individual nerve cells in the brain. Nerve cells communicate with each other across these synapses by using chemical transmitters.

GABA is one of several of those neurotransmitters, targeting what are known as GABA receptors. Barbiturates and benzodiazepines act only on these receptors, which is the source of their inhibitory or tranquilizing effect. Anesthetics also work on these receptors, as does alcohol.

But Weiner, a member of Wake Forest's Center for the Neurobehavioral Study of Alcohol, recorded extensive evidence that alcohol also affects the nerve cell in the region before the synapse, which is called a pre-synaptic interaction.

"Unless you really focus on all of these mechanisms, you don't get the full picture of what alcohol is doing," said Weiner, assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology. "By looking

at both pre- and post- synaptic mechanisms, we discovered a whole new way that that the sensitivity of the synapse to alcohol is regulated."

That makes alcohol "very different" from the two comparison classes of drugs -- barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

He said that this pre-synaptic activity may open the door for new drugs that might be used to treat alcoholism by focusing on that mechanism. For instance, he has already shown that a chemical called baclofen blocks the effect of alcohol on GABA synapses, but has no effect on benzodiazepines or barbiturates.

"By doing this work, we gained new insight into what determines the overall sensitivity of the GABA synapse to alcohol," said Weiner. "That might help explain some of the individual variability and sensitivity to alcohol and aid in identifying individuals at risk of abusing alcohol."

"Exploiting the targets we have found may aid in the development of pharmacotherapy," he said.

In making the discovery, Weiner made use of a technology that was not widely used until the 1990s, known as the whole cell patch clamp electrophysiological method. The technology lets scientists focus on activity within individual brain cells.

Using the technology in rat brains, Weiner was able to measure and document the variations in sensitivity to alcohol.

The result of his research is a tentative conclusion that alcohol effects on GABA synapses "may involve a complex interplay between pre- and post-synaptic processes and likely differs fundamentally from the effects of other modulators" of these inhibitory synapses.

Weiner is one of only six plenary speakers at the five-day meeting.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "Wake Forest Investigator Shows New Way That Alcohol Affects Brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 July 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/07/020708082534.htm>.
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. (2002, July 8). Wake Forest Investigator Shows New Way That Alcohol Affects Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/07/020708082534.htm
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "Wake Forest Investigator Shows New Way That Alcohol Affects Brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/07/020708082534.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins