Alcohol is a really small molecule, which means it can travel anywhere in your body, including your brain. Once inside your brain, it influences a whole bunch of neurotransmitters, the chemicals your brain uses to communicate.
This week’s Neurotechnology Tip looks at the chemistry behind the effects of alcohol.
The good, the bad and the ugly
The “good” feelings you enjoy when consuming alcohol, come because it boosts the levels of dopamine.
But, unfortunately the “good” feelings are often accompanied by a feeling of being sleepy. The neurotransmitter, responsible for feeling tired when you drink alcohol, is GABA.
The higher GABA levels seem to tire out the region of your brain, known as the thalamus.
Thalamus starts dropping information
The job of the thalamus is to sort through the thousands of bits of information (parcels), arriving in your brain.
Even at the best of times, the thalamus can only hold a few items. It continually juggles the information it receives, choosing to keep or dump things and on the odd occasion drop things resulting in information “slipping your mind”.
As the GABA levels rise, the thalamus starts to run into trouble and starts finding it very difficult to juggle everything. It starts “dropping” some of the packages so you find that your co-ordination is no longer 100 %. Walking in a straight line can become a challenge and you might start to forget what you were saying before you get to the end of the sentence.
If you get behind the wheel of your car in this state you are much more likely to have an accident.
Thalamus too muddled to hold onto information
As the level of alcohol consumed increases, the thalamus starts to get more muddled and confused and slows down.
You progress to a point where you would be considered drunk. You cannot remember who you are, or where you are, and often do things that you would not do if you had all your wits about you.
Thalamus goes on strike
If the alcohol level continues rising, your thalamus shuts down and you can slip into a coma.
If the levels are high enough, your brain can switch off completely and you forget to breath, resulting in death.
Watch your alchohol levels
The amount of alcohol you need in your system to go from a little happy and relaxed, to switched off, will depend on you.
Factors that influence it would be
- whether you are male or female,
- a giant or a midget,
- young or old, as well as how much practice you get drinking alcohol.
This week’s Neurotechnology Tip, make sure you keep the alcohol level low enough to avoid the brain shut down. Less is more !
To wire up your brain a little each week ………………..
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Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below…..