What a light weight …

Last night Sehe, Kris decided to wander around for dinner and ended up finding a fantastic little pizza place called Café l’Éphémère.

Map of Café l’Éphémère

It was happy hour so we all got our own cocktail, mine being the pinkest drink I’ve ever ordered.

My Tequila Sunrise

The pizza was delicious and the escargot was definitely interesting, but my favorite part was seeing how the same amount of alcohol affected each of us in a different way.  My tequila sunrise did not affect me and Sehe’s French martini had little effect on her, but Kris on the other hand, was definitely feeling his vin chaud.  Why was it that even though we all drank the same amount, he was the one that was telling stories about “the good ol’ days” (he’s only 25…) and taking “artsy” pictures with the coaster and candle.  I decided to look it up when I got back.

Even though most research was centered on chronic consumption with reference to alcoholism, I did find a paper that was particularly interesting concerning alcohol sensitivity.  Often we say, “that person has a low tolerance” when they are easily affected by alcohol, however they are actually just more sensitive to alcohol’s effects .Tolerance is often defined as when the body becomes accustomed and less responsive to a substance (like alcohol) after repeated exposure(Webster, 2013).  You can have less of a response to alcohol without the repeated exposure.  Essentially, Kris was more sensitive to the effects of alcohol then Sehe and I.

The paper I found was Wargelius et. al, 2010 and it links 5-HIAA (a metabolite of serotonin) in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and MAO-B with alcohol sensitivity in rhesus monkeys.  MAO-B is a mono amine oxidase, which breaks down monoamines (like serotonin).  It is often found in neurons and blood platelets. What was significant about this particular study was that it was one of the firsts to link MAO-B activity with sensitivity to the effects of alcohol.  (Wargelius et al., 2010).

Wargelius et al. had 78 rhesus monkeys receive an ethanol solution and after they were scored for their degree of intoxication (whether they fell, bumped a wall, or swayed).  They tested voluntary alcohol intake by having the animals participate in a procedure where they were able to choose between an ethanol solution, aspartame, and water for 5 days during a two week period.  They also took CSF and blood samples in order to test for 5-HIAA levels and platelet MAO-B activity.

They found that rhesus monkeys that had low platelet MAO-B activity also had low levels of 5-HIAA and were less sensitive to the effects of alcohol.  Interestingly, those with low platelet MAO-B activity also had more ethanol-induced aggression and higher voluntary alcohol intake.  These results combined with the knowledge that lower activity of MAO is related to behavior and psychiatric disorders, could suggest that individuals with low platelet MAO-B activity are more susceptible to alcoholism (Oreland, 2004; Wargelius et al., 2010).

I found this study very interesting because I really liked how it suggested a link between low MAO activity and high alcohol sensitivity.  In our NBB classes we are always talking about MAO activity in relation to various different psychological disorders.  However, since this one of the first papers to make this connection, it will be interesting to see if further research backs up their results.

~Sarah Harrington


Oreland L (2004) Platelet monoamine oxidase, personality and alcoholism: the rise, fall and resurrection. Neurotoxicology 25:79-89.

Wargelius HL, Fahlke C, Suomi SJ, Oreland L, Higley JD (2010) Platelet monoamine oxidase activity predicts alcohol sensitivity and voluntary alcohol intake in rhesus monkeys. Upsala journal of medical sciences 115:49-55.

Webster M (2013) Tolerance. In: Merriam-Webster.com.



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