Often it is said that alcohol goes to one’s head really fast. But, guess how fast? In just six minutes, say researchers.
A new study by Heidelberg University has found that six minutes after consuming the equivalent of three glasses of beer or two goblets of wine, changes actually start taking place in people’s brain cells.
It has also shown that men’s and women’s brains react to alcohol consumption the same way and the harmful effects of alcohol on the brain might be shortlived, but over time cells take longer to repair themselves.
The researchers have based their findings on an analysis of an experiment in which eight male and seven female volunteers took part and drank a specified amount of alcohol through a 90cm-long straw while lying in a MRI brain scanner, ‘The Daily Telegraph’ reported.
The goal was to reach a blood alcohol content of 0.05 to 0.06 per cent — a level that impairs ability to drive, but does not induce severe intoxication.
Using a scanner, the scientists examined the tiny changes in brain cell tissue structure caused by the alcohol in tests which previously had only been done on animals and found that the drinks took six minutes to reach their brains.
Lead researcher Armin Biller said chemical substances that normally protect brain cells are reduced as concentration of alcohol increases. Other components of brain cells were also cut as more alcohol was consumed.
“Our follow-ups on the next day showed that the shifts in brain metabolites after moderate consumption of alcohol by healthy persons are completely reversible. However, we assume the brain’s ability to recover from alcohol effect decreases or is eliminated as the consumption of alcohol increases.
“The acute effects demonstrated in our study could possibly form the basis for the permanent brain damage that is known to occur in alcoholics. This should be clarified in future studies,” he said.
The findings are published in the ‘Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism’.