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Scientists Zero in on Alcohol’s Effect on the Brain

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Aired 6/29/09

Scientists at San Diego's Salk Institute have taken a step forward in understanding how alcohol affects the brain. KPBS reporter Tom Fudge explains how this might help fight alcohol dependence.

— Scientists at San Diego's Salk Institute have taken a step forward in understanding how alcohol affects the brain. KPBS reporter Tom Fudge explains how this might help fight alcohol dependence.

Scientists say there is a channel for potassium ions in the brain that plays a significant role when it comes to both seizures and the effects of alcohol. Now, Salk researchers have identified a binding point where alcohol interacts with this channel of ions and reduces neuronal activity.

Neuroscientist Paul Slesinger was the leader of the study, whose results were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. He says by creating a clearer picture of the effects of alcohol this research could lead to a drug that limits alcohol's effect and, possibly, reduces alcohol dependence. He says making neurons less active, as alcohol does, has unclear effects. But hyperactive neurons can cause seizures. And a drug that fits the alcohol binding point could be a way to treat epilepsy.

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