UW-Eau Claire students researching addiction and alcoholism

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A group of UW-Eau Claire students are looking into the science behind addiction and alcoholism with a focus on the older generations.

Dr. Doug Matthews, Professor of Psychology studies alcohol addiction. Samantha Scaletty is one of three students working with Matthews through a funded internship program. "We got a grant from the Mayo Clinic and so we get rats at the age of about 28 days and we let them live all the way up to the end of their life span and we give them doses of alcohol, varying doses and we see how that has effects on their brain," said Samantha Scaletty, Sophomore and Neuroscience major.

Dr. Matthews says research of this kind is important. "The negative consequences of alcohol use are tremendous. It’s impossible to pick up a newspaper and not see somebody who's been cited for their 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th DUI.

The study is focused on understanding how alcohol impacts all people but specifically the elderly. "One of the things we know is that older people continue to drink," said Matthews.

Through the use of lab rats, they hope to identify patterns, genetic factors and possible treatments. "There's no research done on older specimens, everything is done on adolescents and adults so we don’t really know how alcohol is affecting older individuals," said Scaletty.

Matthews says older adults can be compromised in terms of their immune system or their balance when it comes to alcohol.

Both Matthews and Scaletty say it’s important to understand the effects alcohol has on your body. “Especially because we're in a very cold climate and alcohol makes you hypothermic, another thing that we're finding is that older people has a tendency to be more hypothermic because of alcohol,” said Scaletty.

So far, what they’re finding is that the older test subjects have a higher sensitivity to alcohol than their younger counterparts. The study began at the start of this current school semester and is expected to continue for the next two years.

Read the original version of this article at weau.com.