Thursday, April 14, 2011

Alcohol helps the brain remember

This new study goes against everything I've learned in my years of drinking...but who am I to argue with science?

Alcohol helps the brain remember, says new study

April 12th, 2011 in Medicine & Health / Neuroscience
Drinking alcohol primes certain areas of our brain to learn and remember better, says a new study from the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research at The University of Texas at Austin.
The common view that drinking is bad for learning and memory isn't wrong, says neurobiologist Hitoshi Morikawa, but it highlights only one side of what ethanol consumption does to the brain.
"Usually, when we talk about learning and memory, we're talking about conscious memory," says Morikawa, whose results were published last month in The Journal of Neuroscience. "Alcohol diminishes our ability to hold on to pieces of information like your colleague's name, or the definition of a word, or where you parked your car this morning. But our subconscious is learning and remembering too, and alcohol may actually increase our capacity to learn, or 'conditionability,' at that level."
Morikawa's study, which found that repeated ethanol exposure enhances synaptic plasticity in a key area in the brain, is further evidence toward an emerging consensus in the neuroscience community that drug and alcohol addiction is fundamentally a learning and memory disorder. When we drink alcohol (or shoot up heroin, or snort cocaine, or take methamphetamines), our subconscious is learning to consume more. But it doesn't stop there. We become more receptive to forming subsconscious memories and habits with respect to food, music, even people and .
In an important sense, says Morikawa, alcoholics aren't addicted to the experience of pleasure or relief they get from . They're addicted to the constellation of environmental, behavioral and physiological cues that are reinforced when alcohol triggers the release of dopamine in the brain.
"People commonly think of dopamine as a happy transmitter, or a pleasure transmitter, but more accurately it's a transmitter," says Morikawa. "It strengthens those synapses that are active when dopamine is released."
Alcohol, in this model, is the enabler. It hijacks the dopaminergic system, and it tells our brain that what we're doing at that moment is rewarding (and thus worth repeating).
Among the things we learn is that drinking alcohol is rewarding. We also learn that going to the bar, chatting with friends, eating certain foods and listening to certain kinds of music are rewarding. The more often we do these things while drinking, and the more that gets released, the more "potentiated" the various synapses become and the more we crave the set of experiences and associations that orbit around the alcohol use.
Morikawa's long-term hope is that by understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of addiction better, he can develop anti-addiction drugs that would weaken, rather than strengthen, the key synapses. And if he can do that, he would be able to erase the subconscious of addiction.
"We're talking about de-wiring things," says Morikawa. "It's kind of scary because it has the potential to be a mind controlling substance. Our goal, though, is to reverse the mind controlling aspects of addictive drugs."
Provided by University of Texas at Austin
"Alcohol helps the brain remember, says new study." April 12th, 2011. http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-04-alcohol-brain.html

18 comments:

  1. dude.. hahaha... maybe then it makes sense. alcohol put your brain in a state that can only be remembered when in that state. sweet.

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  2. My god, it all makes sense... That's pretty damn interesting.

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  3. very interesting, you always assume its pretty much 100% bad. guess not

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  4. in a weird way, it makes sense :O

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  5. I'm having a beer right now with lunch lol! I bet I'll remember this lunch in 20 years.

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  6. Interesting, all drugs are good for you when taken in moderation, its just that Humans dont know how to restrain themselves from something that is good and so we exploit it that is why drugs are bad because we let ourselves be addicted to them.

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  7. How funny since the alcoholics drink to forget...

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  8. Hmm, my memory for my liver? DEAL

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  9. Alcohol sure didn't help me remember what happened on the weekend... ;p

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  10. I saw this on the news yesterday, glad alcohol has some good benefits :D

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  11. I duno what i'd do without alchohol! Greatest thing ever haha. Awsome blog! Followed.

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  12. This was quite intriguing. I think alcohol helps the brain do many things! :P

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  13. we have to emphasize that it is not loads of alcohol, just a moderate amount of alcohol. don´t get drunk, people :P

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  14. Fascinating article, but I'm still pretty skeptical...

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  15. time to drink before i take a test

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