One of the many challenges with battling alcohol addiction and other substance abuse disorders is the risk of relapse, even after progress toward recovery. Even pesky fruit flies have a hankering for alcohol, and because the molecular signals involved in forming flies’ reward and avoidance memories are much the same as those in humans, they’re a good model for study.
A new study in flies finds that alcohol hijacks this memory formation pathway and changes the proteins expressed in the neurons, forming cravings. Just a few drinks in an evening changes how memories are formed at the fundamental, molecular level.
The findings were published on Thursday, Oct. 25, in the journal Neuron.
Karla Kaun, assistant professor of neuroscience at Brown University and senior author on the paper, worked with a team of undergraduates, technicians and postdoctoral researchers to uncover the molecular signaling pathways and changes in gene expression involved in making and maintaining reward memories.