Even Beer's Taste Triggers Cravings
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Even just the taste of beer can trigger the urge to drink more, a new study finds. Researchers used positron emission tomography (PET), to scan the brains of 49 men as they tasted both beer and Gatorade. They found a rise in dopamine levels in the brain after the men tasted a small amount of beer, even with no intoxicating effects. This response was pronounced in those men who had a history of alcoholism in their family. Dopamine is a brain-chemical associated with pleasure, and many neuroscientists believe it plays a huge role in drug and alcohol cravings. "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," says David A. Kareken, Ph.D., professor of neurology at the IU School of Medicine and the deputy director of the Indiana Alcohol Research Center. “The stronger effect in participants with close alcoholic relatives suggests that the release of dopamine in response to such alcohol-related cues may be an inherited risk factor for alcoholism.” Confirming the results of the brain scans, study participants also reported craving more alcohol after tasting the beer. They did not crave "more" after drinking Gatorade even though many admitted the sports drink did taste better.