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4. Locating where alcohol has its effects
How do we know which parts of the brain are affected by alcohol? By using special staining, we can see where alcohol-activated genes are located.
One type of picture uses dark spots to show the locations of alcohol-activated genes -- here, a gene called "c-fos." The pictures above show brain tissue from (left) a mouse that hasn't received alcohol, and (right) one that has. The spots on the right show where alcohol-related genes have been "turned on," or activated.
By studying where in the brain certain genes are activated, we discover which parts of the brain and which "pathways" between them are affected by alcohol. Overall, we find that chronic alcohol intake in mice leads to substantial changes in the brain.