Brain Games returns this season with twelve new episodes that reveal the inner-workings of your brain. You will be astounded by the way your mind works… and sometimes doesn’t work. The brain is incredibly complicated and despite the fact that it has fascinated scientists for as long as there have been scientists, there is still much to learn about it. Research is constantly in the works to unlock the secrets our brains hold. Here a few interesting recent studies from the news:
The Taste of Beer Makes the Brain High
In a study published in Neuropsychopharmacology this week, researchers, hoping to discover the effects of the taste of beer, gave 49 male volunteers a half an ounce sip of their favorite beer over the course of 15 minutes. This amount was meant to be enough to enjoy the taste, but no enough to cause intoxication. As a control for comparison, the men were also given water or sips of a sports drink. Researchers then scanned the volunteers’ brains to measure the effect on dopamine receptors.
The scans revealed higher increases in dopamine when sipping beer than when the control drinks were tasted. This was especially true in the participants who had a family history of alcoholism. “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,” the study’s senior author, neuroscientist David Kareken of the Indiana University School of Medicine, said in a statement. While the effects of the alcohol could not entirely be ruled out, researchers hope that these findings will be helpful in assessing predisposition to alcohol abuse.
Alcohol Affects Focus
Perhaps the taste of beer gives some people pleasure, but according to a study published in 2012 by cognitive psychologist Jennifer Wiley, a low level of intoxication decreases the ability to focus. Think a couple of beers won’t change your ability to focus? Think again, focus isn’t as easy as you think. For example, look at these jugglers and see if you can count the pins they are juggling.
Wiley’s study, however, suggested that a lack of focus might allow for further creativity. “We found at 0.07 blood alcohol, people were worse at working memory tasks, but they were better at creative problem-solving tasks,” says Wiley. Although, she also points out that there are other ways to increase creativity that do not involve a glass of wine such as changing the hour of day your engage in creative activities or brain storming in the shower. Of course, for many of us the bigger challenge is remaining focused on all our daily tasks. Completely sober and still having trouble focusing? There are tricks for gaining focus as well. Focus (and trying not to focus) is tricky!
While how alcohol effects the brain is a very interesting topic, you don’t need to imbibe to play Brain Games and mess with your mind’s focus. Tune in to this week’s episode of Brain Games: Focus Pocus on Monday, April 22 at 9PM et/pt and exercise your mind!