Beer triggers the release of Dopamine.
Dopamine is associated with Gambling drive, overwhelming Sex drive, among other things.
To see how the taste of beer affects the brain, researchers gave a group of men tiny tastes of beer, and as the men sipped the beer, the researchers scanned the men’s brains. After a taste of beer, the men’s brains showed a notable release of dopamine, a brain chemical associated with the pleasurable experience of consuming alcohol and other drugs. The effect was even greater among men who had a family history of alcoholism.
The findings are not surprising, scientists say, but having a way to assess predisposition to alcohol abuse could be useful.
“We believe this is the first experiment in humans to show that the taste of an alcoholic drink alone, without any intoxicating effect from the alcohol, can elicit this dopamine activity in the brain’s reward centers,” the study’s senior author, neuroscientist David Kareken of the Indiana University School of Medicine, said in a statement. The findings were detailed online today (April 15) in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
Dopamine, a brain chemical widely associated with pleasure, has long been linked to the consumption of alcohol and other drugs. Sensory cues — such as tastes, smells or the sight of a bar — can elicit cravings to drink and cause relapses in recovering alcoholics. Dopamine may be critically involved in such cravings, scientists believe. [ 11 Interesting Facts About Hangovers ]
In the study, researchers gave 49 male volunteers a tiny taste (half an ounce, or 15 milliliters) of their favorite beer over the course of 15 minutes — enough to taste the beer but not enough to cause a change in blood-alcohol level or intoxication. At other times, the volunteers were given a sports drink or water, for comparison…
So is dopamine your cupcake addiction? Your gambling? Your alcoholism? Your sex life? The reality is dopamine has something to do with all of these. But it is none of them. Dopamine is a chemical in your body. That’s all. But that doesn’t make it simple.
What is dopamine? Dopamine is one of the chemical signals that pass information from one neuron to the next in the tiny spaces between them. When it is released from the first neuron, it floats into the space (the synapse) between the two neurons, and it bumps against receptors for it on the other side that then send a signal down the receiving neuron. That sounds very simple, but when you scale it up from a single pair of neurons to the vast networks in your brain, it quickly becomes complex. The effects of dopamine release depend on where it’s coming from, where the receiving neurons are going and what type of neurons they are, what receptors are binding the dopamine (there are five known types), and what role both the releasing and receiving neurons are playing.
And dopamine is busy! It’s involved in many different important pathways. But when most people talk about dopamine, particularly when they talk about motivation, addiction, attention, or lust, they are talking about the dopamine pathway known as the mesolimbic pathway, which starts with cells in the ventral tegmental area, buried deep in the middle of the brain, which send their projections out to places like the nucleus accumbens and the cortex. Increases in dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens occur in response tosex, drugs, and rock and roll. And dopamine signaling in this area is changed during the course of drug addiction. All abused drugs, from alcohol to cocaine to heroin, increasedopamine in this area in one way or another, and many people like to describe a spike in dopamine as “motivation” or “pleasure.” But that’s not quite it. Really, dopamine is signaling feedback for predicted rewards. If you, say, have learned to associate a cue (like a crack pipe) with a hit of crack, you will start getting increases in dopamine in the nucleus accumbens in response to the sight of the pipe, as your brain predicts the reward. But if you then don’t get your hit, well, then dopamine can decrease, and that’s not a good feeling. So you’d think that maybe dopamine predicts reward. But again, it gets more complex. For example, dopamine can increase in the nucleus accumbens in people with post-traumatic stress disorder when they are experiencing heightened vigilance and paranoia. So you might say, in this brain area at least, dopamine isn’t addiction or reward or fear. Instead, it’s what we call salience. Salience is more than attention: It’s a sign of something that needs to be paid attention to, something that stands out. This may be part of the mesolimbic role in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and also a part of its role in addiction.’
So Beer is not as innocuous sounding drink as is made out to be.
- Alcoholism Tied to Over Reactive Brain Dopamine System (counselheal.com)
- Brain dopamine may serve as a risk marker for alcohol use disorders (medicalxpress.com)