Saturday, July 11, 2009

How Alcohol Changes the Brain ... Quickly | LiveScience

How Alcohol Changes the Brain ... Quickly | LiveScience

Only 6 minutes after consuming an amount of alcohol equivalent to three beers — leading to a blood alcohol level of 0.05 to 0.06 percent, which impairs driving ability — changes had already taken place in the brain cells.

For one thing, the brain begins to run on the sugar in alcohol instead of using glucose, the normal brain food.

"Our study provides evidence for alternative energy utilization upon alcohol ingestion," said researcher Armin Biller at Heidelberg University Hospital "The brain uses an alcohol breakdown product instead of glucose for energy demands."

The concentration of substances such as creatine (energy metabolism), which protect brain cells, decreases as the concentration of alcohol increases. Choline, a component of cell membranes, was also reduced.

"That probably indicates that alcohol triggers changes in the composition of cell membranes," Biller said.

Whether there are long-term effects remains to be studied.

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