Posted by Neha Jindal on May 07, 2010

Researchers from School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, England established that ‘hair-of-the-dog’ (an expression used to refer to alcohol taken to cure hangover) might act as hangover-remedy but increases alcohol dependence.

Lead researcher, professor Lindy Holden-Dye, neuroscientist, University’s School of Biological Sciences and member of Southampton Neurosciences Group (SoNG) was quoted in PsychCentral as saying, “This study identifies where and also how alcohol consumption affect the nervous system and the brain in a way that hasn’t been revealed until now.”

“Our study provides a very effective experimental system to tackle this problem,” added Holden-Dye.

However, the lessening effects can add to alcohol dependency, clarified the researcher.

Details of the study
The researchers conducted study on Caenorhabditis elegans (one-millimeter long) worms, for the fact that they are strangely similar to humans as regards alcohol-dependence behaviour.

The worms, when exposed to drinking over an extended period, get accustomed to certain intoxication levels.

As the drinking stops, they exhibit withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and distress, which can be equated to those in humans.

Researchers tested the worms’ behaviour during alcohol withdrawal to relate it to humans and find better ways to treat alcoholism in them.

They found that the worms became hyperactive owing to alcohol withdrawal and displayed intense body bends, in contrast to ‘teetotal’ worms that are distinguished by not exhibiting any such behaviour.

Other findings
Besides, the researchers found that the presence of the neuropeptide chemical, involved in brain functions like pain control, reward, food intake and learning, allowed alcohol to affect worms’ nervous system, thus leading to changes in behaviour.

This also showed that neuropeptide circulation has a crucial role in alcohol (ethanol) withdrawal.

Holden-Dye was quoted by BBC News as saying, “Neuropeptides are also involved in chronic alcohol effects in humans and this is leading to new ideas for the treatment of alcoholism, but their precise role is unclear.”

“This research showed the worms displaying effects of the withdrawal of alcohol and enables us to define how alcohol affects signaling in nerve circuits which leads to changes in behaviour,” added Holden-Dye.

The researcher, however, cautioned against the use of the ‘hair of the dog’, also called ‘hair of the dog that bit you’ technique, as a hangover-remedy until further research.

The study appears in the journal PLoS ONE.

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