Study pokes holes in fetal alcohol hypothesis

A new study published in the journal Brain Behavior and Immunity appears to challenge the theory that cells in the brain’s immune system are the culprit behind the neurological damage that occurs in children exposed to alcohol while in the womb.

“In order to develop treatments for this condition, we must first understand how alcohol affects the developing brain,” said Ania Majewska, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “While the hypothesis that dysfunctional immune cells play a role in fetal alcohol syndrome is logical and enticing, it appears that this idea may be a scientific dead end.”

Exposure to alcohol in the womb can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), a condition that causes lifelong physical and cognitive impairments, and for which there is no available treatment. The symptoms suffered by individuals with FASD can range from poor impulse control and attention, learning disabilities, compromised fine motor skills, and delays in the ability of the brain to process visual and auditory information. FASD is diagnosed in about one out of every 100 babies born in the U.S.

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Immune system linked to alcohol drinking behavior

Researchers from the University of Adelaide have found a new link between the brain’s immune system and the desire to drink alcohol in the evening.

In laboratory studies using mice, researchers have been able to switch off the impulse to drink alcohol by giving mice a drug that blocks a specific response from the immune system in the brain.

Now published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, this research is one of the first of its kind to show a link between the brain’s immunity and the motivation to drink alcohol at night.

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Binge drinking in college may lower chances of landing a job after college

Heavy drinking six times a month reduces the probability that a new college graduate will land a job by 10 percent, according to Tel Aviv University and Cornell University research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Previous studies were unable to determine the precise effect of alcohol consumption on first-time employment. But according to the new study, each individual episode of student binge-drinking during a month-long period lowers the odds of attaining full-time employment upon graduation by 1.4 percent.

“The manner in which students drink appears to be more influential than how much they drink when it comes to predicting the likelihood of getting a job upon graduation,” says Prof. Peter Bamberger of TAU’s Coller School of Business Management and Cornell University, who co-authored the study with Prof. Samuel Bacharach of Cornell University; Prof. Mary Larimer and Prof. Irene Geisner, both of the University of Washington; Jacklyn Koopmann of Auburn University; Prof. Inbal Nahum-Shani of the University of Michigan; and Prof. Mo Wang of the University of Florida.

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A disposable alcohol test reveals whether you are fit to drive within two minutes

The Finnish company Goodwiller has launched a rapid alcohol test it has developed in collaboration with VTT that measures the blood alcohol content from saliva. A disposable test fits easily into a small wallet and reveals the user’s fitness to drive within couple of minutes.

Goodwiller Oy’s Promilless test was developed in cooperation with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The test is based on the use of printed biochemical ingredients.

“On the basis of a saliva sample, the innovation incidates when the blood alcohol content exceeds 0.2 ‰ (promilles). The test result is indicated as the darkening of the test strip’s ‘intelligent paper areas,” says Project manager Marika Kurkinen from VTT.

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Eleven minutes of mindfulness training helps drinkers cut back

Brief training in mindfulness strategies could help heavy drinkers start to cut back on alcohol consumption, finds a new UCL study.

After an 11-minute training session and encouragement to continue practising mindfulness — which involves focusing on what’s happening in the present moment — heavy drinkers drank less over the next week than people who were taught relaxation techniques, according to the study published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.

“We found that a very brief, simple exercise in mindfulness can help drinkers cut back, and the benefits can be seen quite quickly,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Sunjeev Kamboj (UCL Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit).

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