COLUMBUS , Ohio -- In the long run, a drink or two a day may be good for the brain.
Researchers found that moderate amounts of alcohol amounts equivalent to a couple of drinks a day for a human improved the memories of laboratory rats.
Such a finding may have implications for serious neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, said Matthew During, the study's senior author and a professor of molecular virology, immunology and cancer genetics at Ohio State University .
"There is some evidence suggesting that mild to moderate alcohol consumption can protect against diseases like Alzheimer's in humans," said During. "But it's not apparent how this happens."
He and his colleague, Margaret Kalev-Zylinska, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, uncovered a neuronal mechanism that may help explain the link between alcohol and improved memory.
"We saw a noticeable change on the surface of certain neurons in rats that were given alcohol," During said. "This change may have something to do with the positive effects of alcohol on memory."
The researchers presented their findings at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference in Atlanta.
During and Kalev-Zylinska designed a special liquid diet for the rats. One formulation included a low dose of alcohol, comparable to two or three drinks a day for a human, while the other diet included a much higher dose of alcohol, comparable to six or seven drinks a day for a human. A third group of rats was given a liquid diet without alcohol. All animals were given their respective diets daily for about four weeks.
The researchers measured the rats' blood-alcohol levels three times throughout the study. Toward the end of the study, they subjected the rats to two different memory tasks.
For the first task, the rats were given several minutes to examine two identical, square plastic objects. After a certain amou
Contact: Matthew During
Ohio State University