Almost everyone loves to take a glass of beer or a shot of liquor, especially after a particularly long and hard day. It is probably safe to say that such a small indulgence will have little or no effect on one’s brain and overall health. In actuality, beer and wine has been shown to have health benefits when taken in moderation. Yet, there are a number of people who treat alcohol as something they can’t live without, and consume the stuff in huge amounts daily. This is where trouble may come in. Check out the information below on alcohol and how it affects the brain:
The Interaction between Alcohol and the Brain
At one point in your life or the other, you’ve probably observed (or experienced) the outward manifestations of drunkenness. Whenever you see a person struggling to walk in a straight line, hear him slur, or witness firsthand his ill-mannered actions, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is that the individual has been drowning himself in liquor. But have you ever thought that all these were the effects of the alcohol interacting with the brain? If you’re like most people, then you probably just turned away and not bothered to think any more of the matter.
These external signs, in fact, are actually brought about by the interaction between the alcohol and the brain. The substance alters the neurotransmitter levels, thereby modifying the brain’s chemistry and overall functions. These neurotransmitters are the very chemicals that carry signals throughout the entire body in order to coordinate different bodily functions including the way a person thinks, acts, and feels. There are two main categories of neurotransmitters: excitatory and inhibitory. The first, as the name suggests, promote the electrical activity of the brain, while the second reduces it.
By intensifying the effects of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, alcohol increases the slurring of speech and sluggish actions brought about by the said neurotransmitter in people. Furthermore, alcohol hinders the effects of glutamate, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter, thereby slowing down the body’s physiological operations. On the other hand, the feeling of pleasure from taking a drink is created by the increase in dopamine levels in the reward center of the brain. This feeling of bliss explains why many still opt to drink the stuff in spite of all the unpleasant consequences.
The Effects of Alcohol on the Specific Areas of the Brain
The cerebral cortex is where most cognitive functions like thought processing are carried out. It is also where consciousness is regulated. Alcohol acts in such a way that it slows down the behavioral inhibitory centers of the cortex. This in turn will make an individual less inhibited, explaining why intoxicated people abandon their reserve and act in ways you can’t imagine. On top of it all, the ability to think clearly is significantly reduced and processing of sensory information is slowed down.
The cerebellum, which is responsible for maintaining one’s balance and coordination, is also affected by alcohol. Gaits become off-balance, and movements become uncoordinated. Excessive amounts of alcohol can also result in potentially life-threatening conditions, like lower body temperatures and slower breathing, when the medulla’s functions are affected. Decreased sexual function and memory loss are also possible effects of alcohol on the brain.
Anyway, that is the gist of how alcohol affects the brain. Got a good alcohol story? Let us know by commenting below!