Okay, scientific community. I love it when you cure disease and I get super excited when you discover new elements and all. But this study into what causes drunken blackouts—and how to prevent them—is giving my favorite coping mechanism a sad.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine have identified the specific brain cells involved in the those hazy, booze-induced blackout periods. The good news: alcohol may not actually kill brain cells, however much the difference between your high school and college grades suggests otherwise. Instead, booze interferes with brain receptors, causing neurons to manufacture steroids that inhibit memory formation.
This also means that there may be a drug-related cure to walking around unconscious for the better part of an evening:
The researchers found that if they could block the manufacture of steroids by neurons, they also could preserve LTP in the rat hippocampus. And they did that with drugs called 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors. These include finasteride and dutasteride, which are commonly prescribed to reduce a man's enlarged prostate gland. In the brain, however, those substances seem to preserve memory.
But... but what if we're drinking specifically to forget?
Kids in the room, I'm just kidding! Don't drink until you black out, you'll wake up in any icy bathtub somewhere with a scalpel angled precariously at your kidney. Adults, well, you know. Time to pour one out for blackouts. [MedicalXpress; Photo credit: Shutterstock/tommiphoto]