A few too many drinks and some people turn into a dancing-machine, some won’t shut up, some fall asleep, some want to hug you a lot, and others turn mean.
Researchers of a new study, published in the journal Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, have taken MRI scans of the brains of tipsy men in the hopes of finding out why booze can make some people turn aggressive.
Just as scientists have previously speculated, it has to do with the way alcohol affects the prefrontal cortex – the region of the brain associated with social behavior, personality expression, and other executive functions.
In what sounds like a pretty fun study, 50 healthy young men were either given two drinks containing vodka or placebo drinks without any alcohol. Researchers then monitored changes in their brain activity using an MRI scan while they competed in a reaction-time game against an AI opponent.
As the game began to spark the men’s aggression, there was a notable dip in the activity of the prefrontal cortex in those who had had a drink. This means that the tipsy men were showing signs that their brain was not putting much energy into dealing with social cues, leading them to feel less inhibited.
“Although there was an overall dampening effect of alcohol on the prefrontal cortex, even at a low dose of alcohol we observed a significant positive relationship between dorsomedial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activity and alcohol-related aggression,” lead author Thomas Denson, from the University of New South Wales in Australia, said in a statement. “These regions may support different behaviors, such as peace versus aggression, depending on whether a person is sober or intoxicated.
“We encourage future, larger-scale investigations into the neural underpinnings of alcohol-related aggression with stronger doses and clinical samples,” adds Denson. “Doing so could eventually substantially reduce alcohol-related harm.”
This study’s findings seem to be in line with what other studies have said about how drinking alcohol can change your behavior. If you’ve ever sat by a bar chatting with some stranger until the wee hours of the morning, you’ll know that alcohol can drop your social inhibitions. As this new study now shows, these changes can also be seen in one’s brain activity.
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