Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have
found that alcohol allows specific parts of the brain to remember better.
Morikawa, study leader and a neurobiologist at the Waggoner Center for Alcohol
and Addiction Research at The University of Texas at Austin, and a team of UT
Austin researchers, have discovered that ethanol exposure increases synaptic
plasticity in the brain.
alcohol is usually not tied positively to learning and memory, but this study
found that repeated ethanol consumption increases synaptic plasticity in the
brain, which, according to Morikawa, is evidence that alcohol and drug
addiction is a memory
and learning disorder.
when we talk about learning and memory, we're talking about conscious
memory," said Morikawa. "Alcohol diminishes our ability to hold on to
pieces of information like your colleague's name, or the definition of a word,
or where you parked your car this morning. But our subconscious is learning and
remembering too, and alcohol may actually increase our capacity to learn, or
'conditionability' at that level."
to Morikawa, drinking alcohol or using drugs teaches our subconscious to
consume more, but at the same time, we become more receptive to subconscious memory
making with people, music, food, etc. Morikawa also noted that alcoholics
aren't addicted to the pleasure alcohol gives them, but rather a combination of
behavioral, physiological and environmental cues that are augmented when
alcohol provokes the release of dopamine in the brain.
As far as
this study goes, alcohol takes over the dopaminergic system, and tells our
brain that what we're doing is "rewarding" and worthy of repeating.
We also learn that going to the bar or talking with friends is rewarding.
commonly think of dopamine as a happy transmitter or a pleasure transmitter,
but more accurately it's a learning transmitter," said Morikawa. "It
strengthens those synapses that are active when dopamine is released."
a person does while drinking, the more dopamine is released. This leads to the
increased likelihood that these synapses are repeated.
knowledge, Morikawa would like to create anti-addiction drugs that weaken these
synapses rather than strengthen them, like alcohol and drugs do. This would completely
addiction from a person's subconscious memory.
talking about de-wiring things," said Morikawa. "It's kind of scary
because it has the potential to be a mind controlling substance. Our goal,
though, is to reverse the mind controlling aspects of addictive drugs."
This study was
published in The
Journal of Neuroscience.