Wednesday, April 17, 2013

beer tastes intoxicating...,

thescientist | It seems that beer’s flavor, not just its alcohol content, prompts us to keep drinking—and our risk of alcoholism may enhance this urge, according to new research published today (April 15) in Neuropsychopharmacology. Researchers found downing a swig of beer—too tiny to produce intoxication—prompted release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the reward center of men’s brains, especially in men with close relatives who suffer from alcoholism. The research suggests that stronger dopamine responses to alcohol cues may be one mechanism underlying increased alcoholism risk.

“It’s a very nice finding that contributes to our understanding of how dopamine contributes to addictive urges,” said Kent Berridge, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the research. The brain chemistry of addiction and craving is still being untangled, but it’s long been known that dopamine is involved—though it’s not always clear how, said Berridge. In this case, the research suggests that “dopamine is making taste a stronger incentive, it makes [the beer taste] more tempting.”

Both animal and human studies have shown that drug-related cues, independent of the intoxicating effect of the drug itself, stimulate activity in the brain’s reward centers, explained David Kareken, a neuroscientist at the Indiana Alcohol Research Center and Indiana University School of Medicine, who led the research. However, no one had looked at whether the taste of beer—a cue that can’t be avoided—stimulates humans to release dopamine, a key neurotransmitter used in the reward center.


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