Calling it a night after one or two drinks may be good for more than just your dignity, as some tipsy lab rats reveal in a new study.
Christina Gianoulakis, a professor in the department of psychiatry and physiology at McGill University in Montreal, has found that endorphins, the so-called feel-good hormones, are released only after low to moderate doses of alcohol.
By contrast, her research found that high amounts of booze stimulate areas in the brain associated with anxiety and depression.
Gianoulakis focused on the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) of the brain which is associated with addiction, and found that alcohol triggers endorphin release there. Her research could have implications for how addiction is treated and is to be published in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
"If they don't feel relaxed, if they don't feel good after one or two drinks then they should not continue drinking," said Gianoulakis.
Research lasted over a year and was carried out by injecting alcohol solutions of different concentrations into the abdomens of lab rats. The rats' production of endorphins was measured every half hour.
"This study is ... the first to demonstrate that low to moderate doses of alcohol can stimulate the release of endorphin (in) the ventral tegmental area of the brain in a conscious, freely moving animal," said Anh Dzung Le, the head of neurobiology of the alcohol section at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto.
Gianoulakis said one of the limitations of the study was the method of alcohol consumption. In future studies, she hopes to train rats to imbibe voluntarily.
December 27, 2009
The Star Phoenix
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Moderate drinking releases feel-good endorphins