A study on mice at the Karolinska Institute showed that new cells developed in the hippocampuses of mice who were given alcohol. The mice were given alcohol corresponding to the amount drunk by a person in a normal social situation. The cells survived and developed into nerve cells.
New nerve cells develop all the time in adult brains. A number of factors can stimulate them to grow, including physical exercise, stress and antidepressive drugs.
Scientists are as yet unsure as to the function of the cells, although researcher Stefan Brené at the Karolinska Institute told The Local that the extra brain cells “certainly don’t make you cleverer”.
“It could be that the brain is building an ‘alcohol memory’, and it could be that these cells have something to do with the development of alcohol dependency,” says Brené.
Brené says that extra research is needed to find out more about the role of the cells, and to discover whether they have a role in alcoholism.