The Brain on Alcohol: Why Some Drinkers Blackout
After a night ofِ heavy partying, youِ mightِ need a fewِ clues toِ piece togetherِ your night.
New research suggests thatِ someِ people areِ more susceptible thanِ othersِ to blackouts andِ memory loss afterِ tossing a fewِ back.
The differences betweenِ the twoِ party types areِ visible inِ their brains, withِ thoseِ prone toِ blackouts showing differentِ responses inِ brain areas involved inِ memory andِ attention processes afterِ ingesting justِ a slight amount ofِ alcohol, compared withِ people whoِ don’tِ blackout.
Forgetful Mr. Drinksalot
The researchers areِ studying what’sِ technically called anِ alcohol-induced fragmentary blackout — whatِ someِ mightِ call a brownout — a time whenِ memories getِ spotty due toِ alcohol drinking.
You areِ conscious andِ participating inِ these complex behaviors, butِ the brain isn’tِ necessarily online, takingِ inِ the information andِ remembering what’sِ goingِ on.
These blackouts canِ have negative consequences, likeِ not remembering risky sex orِ driving whileِ intoxicated andِ not remembering it.
Drunk in the lab again
The researchers studied 24 college students whoِ routinely haveِ two orِ three nights outِ with aboutِ five drinks perِ night, anِ amount considered binge drinking inِ science circles.
They separated themِ intoِ two groups: thoseِ who haveِ a history ofِ blackouts andِ those whoِ don’tِ (though theyِ were matched upِ inِ pairs based onِ their level ofِ drinking experience), andِ scanned theirِ brains whileِ theyِ were performing a memory task, eitherِ sober orِ afterِ a fewِ drinks.
After evenِ slight amounts ofِ drinking, toِ theِ legal limit ofِ 0.08, orِ two beers orِ glasses ofِ wine (depending onِ your size), theِ researchers sawِ big differences inِ brain activity duringِ the games.
The day afterِ the drunken memory trial, theِ researchers called toِ check inِ on theirِ subjects.
None ofِ the participants reported havingِ fragmented memories ofِ the test whileِ itِ was happening, evenِ though brain scans wouldِ beg toِ differ; theِ mismatch suggests theِ blackout brain wasِ acting differently evenِ beforeِ it started forgetting.
What couldِ beِ happening isِ that someِ individuals haveِ a brain whichِ canِ handle orِ compensate toِ a certainِ point butِ if youِ put a cognitive load onِ it, likeِ alcohol, itِ just getsِ overloaded, Wetherill said.