Your Brain On Beer: Study Reveals Taste, Not ABV To Blame

A new study of your brain and beer reveals that the science behind humanity’s love for a brewski — and while getting intoxicated is certainly intoxicating (is it beer thirty yet?), our love for drunkenness isn’t our driving factor to drink.

Instead, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine who conducted the beer brain study say something else entirely is at play — and that even non-alcoholic brews can get you a buzz … sort of.

The beer brain study was detailed today in the online edition of the medical journal Neuropsychopharmacology, and lucky participants were asked to sip beer while researchers measured certain activity in their brains.

The beer brain study only involved “tiny” tastes of beer, but the effects were still pretty positive — when the men involved in the study sipped the beverage, their brains registered a boost in dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that governs the brain’s “reward” centers, and is instrumental in making alcohol and drugs a pleasurable experience.

In the beer brain study, researchers also noted a greater dopamine spike among males who had a familial history of alcohol abuse. Neuroscientist David Kareken of the Indiana University School of Medicine was the study’s lead author, and in a statement, Kareken explains:

“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.”

Peter Anderson is a professor at Newcastle University specializing in the area of substance abuse. Anderson commented on the study’s findings, noting the data’s implications regarding desire and possibly addiction. He says:

“This paper demonstrates that taste alone impacts on the brain functions associated with desire … With regard to the family history effect, this is quite difficult to assess and know what it means so we can’t be too sure of an effect or how strong it might be.”

Researchers conducted the beer brain study using Positron Emission Tomography, creating 3D brain scans with radiation.