Q: What causes a hangover?
A: Too much drinking.
■ The real answer, according to new research, is neuropeptides. These brain-signaling molecules which are involved in such brain functions as food intake, learning and memory, are also the source of hangovers, according to “A Differential Role for Neuropeptides in Acute and Chronic Adaptive Responses to Alcohol: Behavioural and Genetic Analysis in Caenorhabditis elegans,” a study from the University of Southampton School of Biological Sciences published in PLoS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication.
__The scientists used worms to test alcohol dependence and resistance. “The observation of ethanol-dependent behaviours in C. elegans and Drosophila has opened the way for genetic screens. These have identified genetic mutations which confer either hypersensitivity or resistance to ethanol.”
__“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 behavior,” professor and lead researcher Lindy Holden-Dye told the media.
__Even though drinking more when you’re hung over—“the hair of the dog”—seems to relieve some of the hangover effects (on worms and people), the researchers warn that it could cause alcohol dependence.
__“Withdrawal is relieved by a low dose of alcohol, a negative reinforcement that contributes to alcohol dependency. This phenomenon of ‘withdrawal relief’ provides evidence of an ethanol-induced adaptation which resets the balance of signalling in neural circuits,” the study found. [bw]