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A Few Drinks Do Make You Feel Better: Researchers Found Alcohol Acts Like Rapid Antidepressants

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Apart from being a result of chemical processes that occur in the brain, attitude and behavior are often subjected to alterations. A study has found that alcohol contribute to a person's immediate well-being in terms of cognitive stimulation.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, associates the neural and molecular changes that alcohol produces in the brain to the effects of antidepressants. Along with the research is a note saying that, however positive this seems, alcohol should not be used as a way of self-medication.

The research used an animal model in order to prove that one dose of alcohol can block the NMDA receptors (proteins that are scientifically associated with learning and memory), which work with the FMRP protein related to autism. As a result of this blocking, an acid in the brain is transformed from being an inhibitor to a stimulator of neural activity. Consequently, the research also suggested that the improvement in psychological state lasts up to at least 24 hours.

"Additional research is needed in this area, but our findings do provide a biological basis for the natural human instinct to self-medicate. They also define a molecular mechanism that may be a critical contributor to the comorbidity that occurs with alcohol use disorder and major depressive disorder," said Kimberly Raab-Graham, Ph.D., at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

What the study does is to associate the biochemical pathway of the alcohol to those of antidepressants and showed how it produced behavioral effects on animals, which may be similar to those in people. Previous researches found that antidepressant like ketamine could inhibit depressive symptoms in people in a matter of hours, even to subjects on whom antidepressants had no effect.

The changes caused by alcohol are neuroadaptive in nature, and acute exposure to ethanol created the same modifications in behavior as those followed by administering antidepressants. The stimuli from alcohol and antidepressant followed the same molecular pathway that altered the expression and signaling of GABA, which then increases the dendritic calcium. However, the researchers noted that mice subjects lacking the FMRP protein did not exhibit any changes in behavior, which further supports the interdependence of these biochemicals.

However, as the benefits of regularly drinking alcohol have been found to be overrated, consuming it in moderation is also advised. While occasional drinking is not presented as a bad decision in itself, over appreciating the long term effects of alcohol could signal lacking in critical thinking and attitudes enforced by confirmation biases.

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