News of the WeekNeurobiology

A New Clue to How Alcohol Damages Brains

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Science  11 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5455, pp. 947-948
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5455.947

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On page 1056, researchers report the first possible explanation for how alcohol damages the developing brain. They show that alcohol works through the receptors for two of the brain's neurotransmitters, glutamate and GABA, to kill brain neurons in rat pups. In addition to carrying an important message for the public about the dangers of alcohol use during pregnancy, the work could provide a first step toward controlling that damage, possibly with drugs that block alcohols' effects on the receptors.