Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Secrets of the hangover

I'm intrigued by a report that scientists have discovered the molecule that causes hangovers. Live Science reports:

Scientists have discovered the molecule in the brain that leads to hangovers. The neuropeptide, a brain-signalling molecule, is believed to cause the body to experience withdrawal symptoms as the brain tries to adapt to different intoxication levels.

The neuroscientists from the University of Southampton's School of Biological Sciences studied the simple brains of C. elegans worms, which have a makeup similar enough to the human brain when intoxicated or dependent on alcohol.

What they found was striking.

Basically, when a worm brain (similarly, a human brain) is exposed to drinking over a long period of time, it becomes accustomed to certain intoxication levels. The brain experiences a series of withdrawal symptoms when the drinking stops.

Typically, these hangover symptoms can include anxiety and agitation, even seizures.

"This research showed the worms displaying effects of the withdrawal of alcohol and enables us to define how alcohol affects signalling in nerve circuits which leads to changes in behavior," said professor Lindy Holden-Dye, a neuroscientist of the University's School of Biological Sciences and member of Southampton Neurosciences Group (SoNG), who led the study.

When the worms were given small doses of alcohol during their withdrawal their irritable behaviors eased. Unfortunately, this approach to combating a hangover also increases the chances for alcohol dependency.

Alcohol dependency and abuse are among the most common mental disorders. This study, published in PLoS One journal, showed hope for an average 13 percent of the adult population that suffers from these disorders.

There's more at the link.

Interesting that giving more alcohol during withdrawal eased the symptoms. It looks like the folk-medicine 'hair of the dog' hangover cure may have something to it, after all. I guess the next step is to develop medicines to control the molecule in question . . . although whether that'll prove to be a good thing is debatable. I mean, if one can cure the effects of over-indulgence in alcohol, might that not encourage those prone to such problems to over-indulge even more?



Noons said...

or worse: this may lead to the "cure" for "cold turkey", a common hangover-like ailment in other much more powerful and less savoury substance dependencies....

LabRat said...

Sounds like they're conflating hangovers and physical dependency on alcohol.

Personally, I've never experienced anxiety, seizures, or a craving for another drink when I have overindulged enough for a hangover. More like blinding headache and the nauseated conviction that going anywhere near more would make me puke.

Anonymous said...

Wait... Alcohol causes hangovers? I'm cured.... I'm cured.

..Or as sinatra said,

"'I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they
wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're
going to feel all day. "