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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How Alcohol Affects Choices

It has long been known that alcohol lowers one's inhibitions causing them to make decisions that they would not normally consider. Countless people who drink regularly have had experiences that they regretted upon sobering up. It is not a coincidence when people get multiple DUI citations throughout their drinking careers, it isn't that they do not know what they are doing is wrong. It is just that alcohol makes them careless about their actions causing them to make decisions counter to reason. New research may have shown how alcohol affects self-control by dulling the brain signal that informs someone they are making a mistake.

Researchers from the University of Missouri measured brain activity in 67 participants while they were performing a challenging computer task, according to Science Daily. The participants’ mood was observed by researchers, as well as their accuracy in completing the task and how accurate the participants thought they were.
  • One-third of participants were given alcoholic drinks
  • one third had a placebo drink
  • one-third did not have any drink

The brain’s “alarm signal” when responding to a mistake was significantly reduced in the alcohol group compared with the other two groups. Although, participants who drank alcohol were no less likely to realize they had made a mistake, but, they were less likely than those in the non-alcohol groups to slow down and be more careful after making a mistake.

“In tasks like the one we used, although we encourage people to try to respond as quickly as possible, it is very common for people to respond more slowly following an error, as a way of trying to regain self-control. That’s what we saw in our placebo group. The alcohol group participants didn’t do this,” lead researcher Bruce Bartholow said.

The study is published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

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