Ketogenic therapies as potential treatment for alcohol withdrawal symptoms at Neuropsykiatrisk Laboratorium

Alcohol use disorder is one of the most common psychiatric conditions, and, according to a WHO report in 2018, more than 3 million deaths every year are linked to alcohol use worldwide. In Denmark it is estimated that as much as 14% of the adult population has a harmful use of alcohol.

Alcohol alters almost all neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and even its energy metabolism. Therefore, withdrawal symptoms occur upon cessation of prolonged heavy drinking, which can result in life-threatening epilepsy-like episodes, psychiatric symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression), and brain damage. Brain imaging studies have shown that alcohol decreases the usage of glucose in the human brain, while increasing acetate metabolism, an alcohol metabolite. During alcohol withdrawal, as alcohol and thus acetate availability drops, the brain may be in a state of partial energy depletion, which may contribute to the neurotoxicity and symptoms observed in alcohol withdrawal. We and others have recently shown ketogenic treatments to have beneficial effects in both alcohol dependent rodents and humans.

In this Master project, you will help us understand how providing the brain with an alternative acetate substrate in the form of ketone bodies can alleviate withdrawal symptoms - or is it even the energy metabolism aspect that is important? Recent results suggest effects on GABA/glutamate balance, suggesting wider implications and applications of ketogenic diets. The proposed study will use behavioral and biochemical experiments to further investigate the beneficial effects of ketogenic treatments in alcohol withdrawal, as well as fiber photometry to perform deep brain recordings in freely moving mice while self-administering alcohol. You will work closely with PhD student Simone Tonetto in the Thomsen group.

The Laboratory of Neuropsychiatry is the research laboratory of Psychiatric Center Copenhagen and we are also part of the University of Copenhagen. The laboratory is a translational environment with PhD students, postdocs, and Master’s students working on substance use disorder in laboratory animal projects and in clinical projects. The laboratory has strong collaborations both within Denmark and internationally.

If you want to learn more, contact associate professor  Morgane Thomsen, or, or PhD student Simone Tonetto,

Remember that a project is an invitation for dialogue where you agree on the focus of the project. You have the possibility to suggest other problem statements and perspectives besides what is outlined in the project description. Read more about project collaborations in Career guide