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Alcohol Res Health. 2006;29(4):266-73.

Oxidation of ethanol in the brain and its consequences.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado, USA.


Acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of alcohol (i.e., ethanol) metabolism, has long been suspected of causing at least some of the central nervous system actions of ethanol. However, the data to support such a hypothesis have been difficult to obtain. One roadblock is the very low blood levels of acetaldehyde following ethanol intake and the finding that even elevated acetaldehyde levels in the blood do not easily gain access to the brain. The recent discovery of the oxidation of ethanol to acetaldehyde in the adult brain may help explain the acute effects of ethanol.

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