Monday, November 07, 2011

Booze and our brains.

This is all I needed!..... yet another reason to chill on my happy hour Martini. I keep reminding myself that, in addition to yielding a pleasant ‘buzz’, a modest amount of alcohol is supposed to have overall health benefits. There is a growing body of evidence that alcohol triggers rapid changes in the immune system in the brain as well as neuronal changes. This immune response lies behind some of the well-known alcohol-related behavioral changes, such as difficulty controlling the muscles involved in walking and talking. Wu et al. find in experiments on mice that a receptor on immune cells (TLR4) that controls expression of genes related to the inflammatory response to pathogens is involved in alcohol-induced sedation and impaired motor activity. If the receptor’s action is blocked either by a drug (naloxone) or by the receptor’s genetic removal, the effects of alcohol are reduced. This suggests that drugs specifically targeting the TLR4 receptor might be useful in treating alcohol dependence and acute overdoses.

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