Booze and Brain Damage

There are many factors that can drive an organism to drink. Some might have a genetic predisposition—others might want to poison a parasitic wasp before it consumes them from the inside out. On ERV, new research shows “the epigenetics of the cells in the brains of alcoholics is messed up;” specifically, alcoholic brains express transposable genetic elements (such as endogenous retroviruses) more frequently. Smith writes “the authors think that ERVs are not just a marker of the damage caused by alcoholism, but that the ERVs are actively contributing to the brain damage due to alcoholism.” But does the expression of ERVs encourage alcoholism, or vice versa? Meanwhile, on Brookhaven Bits & Bytes, new research shows that dopamine receptor D2 can prevent alcohol-induced brain damage. Justin Eure writes, “mice without those dopamine receptors experienced brain atrophy overall and shrinkage of the cerebral cortex and thalamus. […] The corresponding regions of the human brain are critical to processing speech, sensory information, and forming long-term memories.” Eure continues, “Previous studies indicated that the absence of dopamine D2 receptors also increases the odds of alcohol addiction – meaning that without D2, alcoholism is both more likely and more dangerous.”