Drunk crayfish

Woohoo!!!  Image courtesy of Jens Herberholz


Image courtesy of Jens Herberholz

Precisely what happens in the brain when we get drunk is still something of a mystery. This is largely because of the complex interactions between alcohol and the nervous system and one of the best ways of studying these interactions is to study the effects of alcohol on other animals. To this end a team of researchers ran a rather amusing experiment with juvenile crayfish. They found that, like many species, the crayfish were behaviourally sensitive to alcohol exposure and that they progressed through stages of intoxication that are strikingly similar to those seen in people. What came as an outright shock though was that the social history of the animals significantly modified the effects that alcohol had on them. Yeah, you read that right. Crayfish raised in tanks with many others got drunk far more quickly and became more dependent on alcohol than crayfish raised in isolation. The big question is whether social interactions during youth in people makes the brain vulnerable to alcohol in the same way. You can read more in The Economist article that I wrote on this here.