Mice Prove Alcohol Abuse Hinders Recovery From Trauma Related Disorders

by AdamS on October 1, 2012

It is not uncommon for people to want to calm their nerves with a stiff drink. However, this can be completely counterproductive for individuals who want to get over devastating experiences or life changes. A recent study that can be found in the journal of Nature Neuroscience has uncovered ways in which heavy alcohol consumption affects the brain in such a way to make it more difficult for people struggling with alcoholism to get over a traumatic incident.

The Test

The research was done by a professor of pharmacology from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, along with a scientist from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). To carry out the study, one faction of mice was given a specific amount of alcohol that equals the amount to put a human two times over the authorized driving limit. As the control group, a second set of mice were kept sober. Scientists then used a conditioning strategy where they induced mild electric shocks to create the fear of a sound. Once the tone was sounded repeatedly without the accompaniment of the shock, researchers found a significant difference in the amount of time it took for the two groups to no longer be distressed by the sound. The sober faction eventually stopped being afraid of the noise, while the mice with alcohol exposure were distressed for a long period of time after the electric shocks had ceased.


The scientists found that the reaction that the group of mice with alcohol exposure displayed was similar to how people that suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) react fearfully in situations that are no longer threatening. When examining the nerve cells in the brains of both groups of mice, researchers found that the cells of the alcohol-exposed mice had actually been morphed into a different structure. Further, the functions of important circuits in the brain were stifled in the intoxicated mice. Alcohol showed to have debilitating effects on both the emotional processes of the subjects and the molecular functions of the brain.


These findings were extremely valuable because they show exactly where alcohol abuse is linked to issues of overcoming trauma in the brain and how heavy alcohol consumption can only temporarily mask the pain of anxiety and fear. Through research, scientists are hoping to develop alternative ways to treat people with alcoholism and co-occurring anxiety disorders. Sober living is crucial in overcoming the debilitating effects of a traumatic event. While the discomfort of past experiences can be at times unbearable, individuals must take a healthy step-by-step approach in order to truly overcome it.

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