Hangover Headache

Editor's choice in neuroscience

Hannah Waters
May 25, 2011

ALFRED PASIEKA / PHOTO RESEARCHERS, INC

The paper
C.R. Maxwell et al., “Acetate causes alcohol hangover headache in rats,” PLoS ONE, 5:e15963, 2010. Free F1000 Evaluation

The finding
While many people get a headache after drinking alcohol, migraineurs have more severe headaches induced by fewer drinks. Using a rat model of migraines, Michael Oshinsky of Thomas Jefferson University and colleagues show that the headache is caused by an alcohol metabolite, acetate, and that the pain can be blocked by caffeine.

The inkling
Researchers long assumed that the alcohol metabolite acetaldehyde caused alcohol-induced headaches, because disulfiram, a drug that blocks the breakdown of acetaldehyde to acetate in the bloodstream, causes headaches after a few drinks. However, acetaldehyde is metabolized quickly enough that it never reaches headache-causing levels without disulfiram, leading Oshinsky to question this hypothesis.

The metabolite
After sensitizing a pain circuit in the rats’ brains, the researchers varied the...

 

F1000 evaluators: K. Hellman & P. Mason (Univ of Chicago)

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