Booze acts fast on brain

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Heidelberg, Germany - Yup, it's true, just one drink can quickly go to your head. In the first human trials of how quickly people get sloshed, researchers found it took just six minutes for effects to appear in the brain.


The researchers gave their lucky guinea-pigs an amount of alcohol equivalent to three glasses of beer or two glasses of wine, leading to a blood alcohol level of 0.05 to 0.06 percent. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), they found that after just six minutes, changes had already taken place in the brain cells.


During the experiment, the concentration of substances such as creatine, which are attributed with protecting cells, decreased as the concentration of alcohol increased. Choline, a component of cell membranes, was also reduced. “That probably indicates that alcohol triggers changes in the composition of cell membranes," says Dr. Armin Biller of the working group for cerebral metabolism at the Department of Neuroradiology at Heidelberg University Hospital.


It wasn't all bad news. “Our follow-ups on the next day showed that the shifts in brain metabolites after moderate consumption of alcohol by healthy persons are completely reversible,” says Dr Biller. “However, we assume that the brain’s ability to recover from the effect of alcohol decreases or is eliminated as the consumption of alcohol increases.”


The results of the study are published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. Hic!