Binge drinking adolescent monkeys' brains seriously damaged by alcohol

June 2, 2010 by Lin Edwards report

( -- Binge drinking is increasing in adolescents, and new research has shown long-lasting damage to an important area in the brains of adolescent monkeys after binge alcohol consumption, and suggests binge drinking could seriously affect the memories of adolescents.

The study was carried out by the Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders at the Scripps Research Institute at La Jolla, California, and aimed to determine the effects of binge on the hippocampus area of the brains of adolescent macaque .

Seven male adolescent monkeys were offered a citrus drink spiked with an amount of that increased from 1 to 6 percent over the first 40 days. Like humans, many monkeys like alcohol and can be big drinkers, and all seven took to the drink. The scientists allowed four of the monkeys access to the alcoholic drinks for an hour each weekday for 11 months, giving the controls the citrus drink unspiked. Blood alcohol levels in the drinking monkeys reached around 0.1 to 0.3 (about the equivalent of drinking 10-12 cans of beer). The researchers then withdrew access to alcohol for over two months before sacrificing the animals and examining their brains.

The results showed that the monkeys had a dramatic and persistent decrease in in the hippocampus region and decreased neurogenesis (development of new neurons). The number of several types of actively dividing stem cells was reduced by 80 to 90 percent in the drinking monkeys compared to the controls, and there was also an increase in neural degeneration, or cell death.

Earlier studies on rodents have shown similar effects, but monkeys are much more like humans in , especially in the hippocampus, and in their longer period of adolescence. They are also often happy to voluntarily drink to intoxication.

The researchers said the results found may underlie the deficits in brain functions associated with the hippocampus seen in alcoholics. The hippocampus is an area in which the brain generates new brain neurons from stem cells, and is involved in short and long term memory, spatial learning, and executive functions.

Leader of the research team, Chitra D. Mandyam, said the study shows alcohol targets immature brain cells in adolescents, reducing the number of new developed. “You’re messing with brain plasticity,” he said, and if the cells are inhibited in adolescence, the chances of normal brain cell production later in life are reduced. Mandyam said it is “very devastating” to see what binge drinking does to the brains of adolescents.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the US.

More information: Michael A. Taffe et al., Long-lasting reduction in hippocampal neurogenesis by alcohol consumption in adolescent nonhuman primates, PNAS, Published online before print June 1, 2010, doi:10.1073/pnas.0912810107

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Chatter in the deep brain spurs empathy in rats

June 23, 2017

It's a classic conundrum: while rushing to get to an important meeting or appointment on time, you spot a stranger in distress. How do you decide whether to stop and help, or continue on your way?

The neural relationship between light and sleep

June 23, 2017

Humans are diurnal animals, meaning that we usually sleep at night and are awake during the day, due at least in part to light or the lack thereof. Light is known to affect sleep indirectly by entraining—modifying the length ...

How brains surrender to sleep

June 23, 2017

Scientists at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna study fundamental aspects of sleep in roundworms. Using advanced technologies, they monitor the activity of all nerve cells in the brain while they ...

How pheromones trigger female sexual behavior

June 22, 2017

A study by a group of Japanese scientists showed how a male pheromone in mice enhances sexual behaviors in females—and how it may enhance a different behavior, aggression, in males—by identifying distinct neural circuits ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (3) Jun 02, 2010
While the severity of the impact of the consumption of alcohol is disturbing, the volume of consumption these monkeys endured/enjoyed is ridiculous: equal 10-12 cans of beer, 5 days a week for 11 months!, I mean, I'm Irish and even I find that extreme :-D
5 / 5 (2) Jun 02, 2010
We know that humans have been consuming alcohol for 9000 plus years and probably much longer... Not sure that other creatures have had the same chances to adapt or evolve with regular ethanol in their diet... (besides the chance encounters they might have with fermented fruit)

Humans provide plenty of test opportunities for alcohol studies - don't think we need to waste booze on our furry friends...
4 / 5 (1) Jun 02, 2010

(besides the chance encounters they might have with fermented fruit)

Here is the example, but for my big dissapointement I learned (from wikipidia) that this video is staged and fake...
Naturally they cant eat fermented fruit in that amount, and they cant aford to be drunk in the savana , they will make the carnivorse really happy.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.