Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Alcohol and Nuerotransmitter Interactions

I found an interesting article titled Alcohol and Neurotransmitter Interactions ( The article states that alcohol disrupts the sensitive balance between inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters (NT) which can be thought of as a sort of scale such as a titer totter. Short term use of alcohol or binge drinking causes inhibitory neurotransmitters to become more heavily weighted on this scale which the article states decreases responsiveness of other neurons to further stimuli. Long term use of alcohol has just the opposite effect and the brain tries to equilibrate this unbalanced scale and thus increases the amount of excitatory neurotransmitters. Alcohol affectively increases receptors of glycine which acts as an inhibitory NT in the spinal cord as well as the brain stems causing the behavioral changes associated with alcohol consumption. The main inhibitory NT is called Gamma-aminobutyre (GABA) which is also responsible for behavioral changes. Increased amounts of GABA (in short term use or binge drinking) due to the effects of alcohol on Purkinje cells also affects the activation of neuroepinefrin which controls the NTs. Neuromodulators such as adenosine are increased which leads to the sedative effect of alcohol. Chemicals such as caffeine and theophylline found in coffee and energy drinks have the opposite affect and inhibits adenosine which is why it is very dangerous to mix alcohol with beverages containing caffeine. The main excitatory NTs are known as N-methel-D-aspartate (NMDA) and when these excitatory receptors show activity, increase changes in calcium levels of the nerve cells. GABA and NMDA are thought to work together and ultimately change the voltage-sensitive calcium channels, which in turn, are responsible for the electrical currents created in the neurons. In addition, short term use of alcohol increases GABA and inhibits the calcium flow which is vary dangerous because in large quantities can cause death through sedation of breathing and heart rate. In contrast, long term use decreases GABA which decreases the sensitivity to NTs.

I am still a little confused and would greatly appreciate any feedback to hopefully clarify this study. It was also hard to state the authors findings in a better way, simply said, they said it best!

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