Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Beer goggles

New Scientist reports: [edited]

Jodi Gilman and her colleagues at the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism used MRI to observe the brain activity of 12 healthy 'social drinkers' when sober and after their blood alcohol levels had reached the legal limit for driving (in the UK and the US).

In both conditions they were shown pictures of either frightened or neutral faces.

The researchers found that booze completely changed the way the brain reacted to the images. Without alcohol, the amygdala - which is involved in processing emotional reactions - lit up in response to the frightened faces, but with alcohol, it was less active, reacting equally to neutral and fearful faces.

This may help explain why drunkenness makes people both more outgoing and more aggressive: it impairs the amygdala's ability to detect threats.

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