Alcohol dulls brain ‘alarm’ that monitors mistakes, MU study finds

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Most people have witnessed otherwise intelligent people doing embarrassing or stupid things when they are intoxicated, but what specifically happens in the brain to cause such drunken actions? A new study testing alcohol’s effects on brain activity from the University of Missouri says that alcohol dulls the brain “signal” that warns people when they are making a mistake, ultimately reducing self control.

Now, have you gone to alcohol rehab in Denver? You may have, or maybe it was someone you know, but have they ever explained to you the brain chemistry associated with addiction? Reading below will explain to you how alcohol dulls the alarm in our brains that monitors the mistakes we make.

“When people make mistakes, activity in a part of the brain responsible for monitoring behavior increases, essentially sending an alarm signal to other parts of the brain indicating that something went wrong,” said Bruce Bartholow, associate professor of psychology in the MU College of Arts and Science. “Our study isn’t the first to show that alcohol reduces this alarm signal, but contrary to previous studies, our study shows that alcohol doesn’t reduce your awareness of mistakes – it reduces how much you care about making those mistakes.”

During the study, Bartholow’s team measured the brain activity of 67 participants, ages 21-35, as they completed a challenging computer task designed to elicit some errors. About one third of the participants were given alcoholic drinks, while the rest were given no alcohol or a placebo beverage. In addition to monitoring their brain activity, the researchers also measured changes in participants’ mood, their accuracy in the computer task, as well as their perceived accuracy.

The findings showed that the brain’s “alarm signal” in response to errors was much less pronounced in those who had consumed alcohol, and the response was largest for those in the placebo group. However, those in the alcohol group were no less likely to realize when they had made a mistake than participants in the other groups, indicating that alcohol’s reduction of the brain’s “alarm signal” did not occur simply because those in the alcohol group were unaware of their errors. The findings also showed that those who had consumed alcohol were less likely to slow down and be more careful in the task following errors.

Alcohol dulls brain ‘alarm’ that monitors mistakes, MU study finds | EurekAlert! Science News

 

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