A survey released by the University of Cologne and the Mannheim-Heidelberg University of Germany, shows that ingesting a single dose of alcohol permanently alters the morphology of brain neurons. The substance specifically changes the structure of synapses and the dynamics of mitochondria, which have the function of generating energy.
By using the fly genetic system model Drosophila melanogasteralso known as the fruit fly or vinegar fly, the researchers found that changes in mitochondria migration at synapses reduce the kickback effect of alcohol.
The results suggest that alcohol consumption, even in small amounts, can trigger addiction. Therefore, the scientists sought to understand what changes in the brain accompany the transition from sporadic doses to high doses, which would lead to alcohol abuse.
The study examined the effects of excess substance consumption on the hippocampus (the central control of the brain). “We tried to discover alcohol-dependent molecular changes,” explained Henrike Scholz, the research leader. “Such changes provide the basis for permanent cellular changes after a single acute intoxication. The effects of a single drink of the drink were examined at the molecular, cellular and behavioral levels.”
The hypotheses, tested in fruit flies and in rats, revealed that alcohol-induced changes occurred in two areas of the animals’ brains: in mitochondrial dynamics and in the balance between synapses in neurons.
Mitochondria are responsible for transmitting energy to cells, especially nerve cells. To optimize energy delivery, mitochondria move. And precisely this movement was impaired in cells affected by alcohol, as well as the chemical balance between synapses.
These changes proved to be permanent and were confirmed by the behavioral changes of the animals, which began to consume more alcohol and had relapses throughout their lives.