Alcohol

10 effects alcohol has on the brain

Think about these before you open that bottle.

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10. A University of Sussex study found that the brains of binge drinkers have to put more effort into feeling empathy for other people, as compared to the brains of people who do not binge drink.

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9. Heavy drinkers are worse at tasks pertaining to short-term memory, motor speed, and other complex cognitive processing tasks. While there’s a common belief among heavy drinkers that they can “handle their alcohol,” that is a misjudgment of their tolerance.

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8. In the brains of flies, alcohol affects and activates the Notch signaling pathway, leading to changes in expression of genes important for learning and memory.

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7. Brain images taken from 11,651 people registered at the UK Biobank shows that alcohol is linked to aging in the brain. Every gram of alcohol consumed per day was linked to an additional week of aging in the brain.

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6. Repeatedly drinking alcohol alongside particular cues can activate certain clusters of neurons to form a long-lasting physical memory trace in the brain. In turn, encountering those cues later in life can reactivate this memory trace and trigger relapse.

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5. In an experiment in rats, animals who preferred alcohol had higher levels of brain activity in the orbitofrontal cortex — which is associated with impulsivity, reward, and decision-making — when they consumed it.

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These results suggest that neuronal activity in the brain's OFC can encode alcohol preferences, which can influence drinking behavior.

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4. Researchers found that 10 days of binge drinking — the equivalent of five drinks daily for the average adult — spurred immune cells in mice brains to destroy connections between neurons, leading to anxiety and other cognitive issues.

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3. Drinking during adolescence may slow the development of white matter in the brain (pale, fatty tissue that insulates neurons).

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A study on 77 macaques showed that those who drank “heavily” (3 grams of alcohol per kilogram of body weight) had only half the amount of white matter growth as a control group.

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2. A 2018 mouse study found that neurons in the prefrontal cortices of hard-drinking mice were significantly less active compared to mice that didn’t binge drink.

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The authors suggest that these changes could underpin deficiencies in working memory in human binge drinkers – especially adolescents.

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1. A 2019 study identified a circuit in the brain that can predict future compulsive drinking.

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Mice who went on to develop drinking problems showed lower activity in that circuit when they encountered alcohol for the first time, compared to mice who didn’t develop an issue.

Read more health stories here.

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