Washington: A new research from the University of Adelaide has explained how immune cells in our brain cause behaviour changes in response to alcohol.
Although scientists know much about how alcohol affects nerve cells, there is also a growing body of evidence that alcohol triggers rapid changes in the immune system in the brain.
This immune response causes some of the well-known alcohol-related behavioural changes, such as difficulty controlling the muscles involved in walking and talking.
In the new study, the scientists gave a single shot of alcohol to laboratory mice and studied the effect of blocking Toll-like receptors, a particular element of the immune system, on the behavioural changes induced by alcohol.
The researchers used drugs to block these receptors. They also studied the effects of giving alcohol to mice that had been genetically altered so that they were lacking the functions of selected receptors.
The results showed that blocking this part of the immune system, either with the drug or genetically, reduced the effects of alcohol.
While the research was carried out on mice, they believe that similar treatments could also work in humans.
“Medications targeting Toll-like receptor 4 may prove beneficial in treating alcohol dependence and acute overdoses,” said lead researcher Dr Mark Hutchinson from the University’s School of Medical Sciences.
These findings could lead to a way of detecting people who are at greater risk of developing brain damage after long-term drinking.
The study was published in the latest edition of the British Journal of Pharmacology.