Neuroscience

Fin-de-siècle Paris

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Science  07 Apr 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5463, pp. 13
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5463.13c

Absinthe conjures up images of Montmartre and Nouvelle-Athènes, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. Taken as a green liqueur with water, it was capable of inducing convulsions and hallucinations, and eventually was banned in much of Europe. Höld et al. now demonstrate that the neurotoxic component of absinthe, α-thujone, inhibits the type A receptor for γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which would have the effect of blocking transmission at inhibitory synapses. Why might this matter nowadays? Because of the growth of herbal medicines, and because the Internet has facilitated international supply of hitherto hard-to-obtain substances, as editorialized by Strang et al.GJC

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., in press; Brit. Med. J.319, 1590 (1999).

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