Can an Alzheimer’s drug help combat the effects of teenage binge drinking?In a study led by Duke Health, scientists demonstrate in rats how the drug donepezil can reverse structural and genetic damage caused to young brains by alcohol use.It’s not exactly ethical to force-feed kids booze in order to test the effects of “intermittent alcohol exposure”—defined by Duke Health as the equivalent of drinking to a blood-alcohol level of .08 (the legal limit for driving while impaired) three or four nights a week.So, researchers use helpless rats instead; pumped with liquor as adolescents, the rodents grow into lushes, ripe for examination.And what the scientists found could have huge implications for undoing brain changes that affect learning and memory in young adult humans.“Clinical studies are starting to show that adolescents who drink early and consistently across the college years have some deficits in learning and memory,” Scott Swartzwelder, professor in psychiatry at Duke, said in a statement.“It’s not a sledgehammer—it’s not knocking their memory out completely—but there are demonstrable, if subtle, effects on their cognitive function,” he added.Those poor drunken rats, for instance, presented a lack of dendritic spines, which help transmit electrical information to neurons. As described by Duke Health, what looks like a “dense forest of dendritic spines” in healthy rats was reduced to “sparse, stubby structures” in those critters exposed to alcohol.“Any change in the density of spines on dendrites tells you those cells were processing information differently than they should be, and whether that processing goes up or down can be a problem,” Swartzwelder said.“They need to be just right,” he continued. “Downstream, these changes can throw a monkey wrench into how cells function. You can imagine how quickly that could multiply in a region of the brain where you’ve got millions of cells interacting.”Researchers have linked these developments to the activity of a gene called Fmr1—often associated with autism and Parkinson’s disease. Alcohol exposure, it turns out, can change how Fmr1 is regulated.But, a short course of treatment with donepezil (primarily used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease) appeared to restore dendritic spines to their former glory.“Studies in humans of the long-term effects of drinking during adolescence are just beginning to emerge,” according to Swartzwelder. “But the data we do have indicate negative cognitive effects, and this puts us one step closer to one day being able to reverse those.” Hell Yeah, Teens Are Growing Skull Horns From Phone UseWorld’s First 5G-Powered Remote Brain Surgery Performed in China Stay on target Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.