3 years ago
Drinking alcohol primes certain areas ofour 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.
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 social situations.
"People commonly think of dopamine as a happy transmitter, or a pleasure transmitter, but more accurately it’s a learning 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).
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 memory 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."
For the full article, visit http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-04-alcohol-brain.html