The first sip of a beer could trigger an immediate dopamine release in the brain
, making even connoisseurs feel warm and happy before the alcohol takes effect, a new study claims.
Researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis administered small amounts of beer, 15 milliliters over a 15 minute period, to a group of 49 men while scanning their brains.
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The result was a notable release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure that has been found to increase with drug and alcohol use.
The study found the effect was heightened among men with a family history of alcoholism, suggesting that a hereditary risk of alcoholism exists, Live Science reported.
"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," said the study's senior author, neuroscientist David Kareken of the Indiana University School of Medicine.
The study was published Monday in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.
Peter Anderson, a professor of substance use, policy and practice at Newcastle University, U.K., had mixed opinions on the study.
"This paper demonstrates that taste alone impacts on the brain functions associated with desire," Anderson said. "With regard to the family history effect, this is quite difficult to assess and know what it means so we can’t be too sure of an effect or how strong it might be."
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In the study, the men drank the same amount of Gatorade as alcohol over the same time period so that researchers could compare the brains' chemical reactions.
In some cases, drinkers participating in the study reportedly told researchers that Gatorade tasted better than the beer over time. However, their dopamine levels still rose
as they drank beer, The Los Angeles Times reported.
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