For the geeks

First, a study identifying central nervous system proteins affected by alcohol exposure:

Researchers at the University at Buffalo studying the effects of alcohol on the brain, using zebrafish as a model, have identified several novel central nervous system proteins that are affected by chronic alcohol exposure…

“Identification of proteins that show selective changes in abundance after alcohol exposure has the potential to unlock new pathways both for understanding the mechanisms of alcoholism and alcohol toxicity, as well as its amelioration,” said Richard A. Rabin, Ph.D., professor in the UB Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and senior author on the study.

Next, a study exploring the interactions between certain genes and alcohol response:

“These findings suggest that there indeed might be a genetically influenced factor of a possible mildly increased LR to alcohol associated with the two genes that we studied,” said Schuckit, “and that may decrease some people’s risk for alcoholism slightly.”

Schuckit said that these findings will likely change how he approaches his own research in the future. “In the kind of work that I’m doing, I had better evaluate people with those two gene forms of ADH separately, because I think they may wash out the effects of some of the other genes that I’m trying to look for. For the field in general, it’s important for researchers to know that there are milder effects of alcohol-metabolizing enzymes similar to what’s seen in Asians that might have an effect of slightly decreasing the risk for alcoholism.”

He added that the implications of these findings go beyond significance for just researchers. “This is the sort of finding that reinforces the fact that genes impact on your response to alcohol, and impact on your risk for alcoholism,” he said. “There are some people who think it’s hard to see behavioral problems like alcoholism being impacted by genes, but of course it is, because genes affect what you were like before you took the alcohol, and also genes absolutely impact on how the alcohol will affect you. The clearest example we have of this are the alcohol-metabolizing genes.”

Third, a study looking neurocognitive damage from alcohol consumption and the degree to which those problems are resolved with abstinence:

Alcoholism can cause neuropsychological deficits, that much is clear. There is much less clarity, however, concerning to what degree recovery may occur with abstinence from alcohol. New findings indicate that long-term abstinence from alcohol can resolve many – but not all – neurocognitive deficits.