According to the
results of a study led by an Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor, it’s
not your imagination: it is harder for adults than teenagers to recover from
the effects of too much alcohol when it comes to sleep-wake patterns.
Christina Ruby, a
member of the biology faculty, is the first author of a study, “Differential
Sensitivity to Ethanol-Induced Circadian Rhythm disruption in Adolescent and
Adult Mice.” The study was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical
and Experimental Research.
undergraduate students worked closely with Ruby on the project and are
co-authors on the study: Kaitlyn Palmer, a biology major from Indiana; Jiawen
Zhang, a mathematics major from China; Megan Risinger, a nursing major from
Creekside; and Melissa Butkowski, a biochemistry 2016 graduate from Bethlehem. Ruby
and the IUP students also worked with Scott Swartzwelder from Duke
University, who also is a co-author on the study.
“There have been
certain studies that have been done in humans that are similar,” Ruby said.
“Even though mice are different than humans, in that they are nocturnal, circadian
rhythms are regulated in exactly the same way in mice as they are in humans.”
humans with our environment, and that happens for mice and other mammals: the
rules are exactly the same, Ruby explained.
Ruby, who came to IUP
three years ago after working at the Mayo Clinic, was pursuing grant funding
for a project studying the effects of alcohol and caffeine together.
“Most of the people
that drink alcohol and caffeinated beverages together are young adults,
especially college-aged young adults,” she said. “So, I decided to shift my
research focus to look at younger (adolescent) animal models.”
Around the time that
Ruby decided on this focus for her work, she received an inquiry from Erik
Herzog, a professor at Washington University that studies circadian rhythms.
Herzog put Ruby in touch with Swartzwelder, who had done research showing that
adolescent rats were less sensitive to the intoxicating effects of alcohol than
adult mice. He also found that
adolescent rodents are more sensitive to alcohol-induced memory impairment.
“This combination of insensitivity to intoxication and enhanced sensitivity to
memory problems makes alcohol especially dangerous in adolescents,” she said.
suggests that the adolescent mice, in addition to their alcohol use having less
impact on the sleep-wake cycle, don’t realize they are becoming impaired, and
that’s one of the reasons why adolescents—both animals and humans—drink
more than adults. Adolescents feel the consequences less than adults do,” Ruby
said, especially in the area of disruption of their circadian rhythms.
While Ruby has been
interested and working on projects related to this topic for 10 years, this
particular study was done completely at IUP.
“There were a lot of
IUP undergraduate students involved with this study, and they are all very
excited to be co-authors on the paper. These students do a lot of independent
work, but we work on the experiments together, so they understand the why of
what we are doing.”
Photo Information: Pictured from left,
Jiawen Zhang, a mathematics major from China; Megan Risinger, a nursing major
from Creekside; Christina Ruby; and Kaitlyn Palmer, a biology major from
Indiana, in the lab at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Department of Biology