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09.2014

Massachusetts Beverage Business

Health

BEER GOGGLES DEBUNKED?

At one time or another, most of us have been victim to “beer goggles” – the phenomenon that a few drinks can make you see even plain faces as more attractive than they are. But a brain expert is now claiming that it’s all just a myth. Dr. Amanda Ellison’s book “Getting Your Head Around the Brain”, which pulls together a range of research into how alcohol affects the brain, argues that men and women do not see each other any differently after alcohol. “The area of the brain that makes us want to mate keeps functioning, no matter how much we drink, meaning that people can still assess how visually-appealing others are. We still see others basically as they are. There is no imagined physical transformation –just more desire,” said Ellison, senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Durham University.

Ellison has found that a fluke of nature sees alcohol closing down the section of the mind that stops us acting on impulse long before it deadens the “reptilian” part responsible for our urges. “The area of the brain that makes us want to mate is the oldest part – and located so far down that it keeps functioning however much we drink – until we are ready to pass out,” she said.

But after as little as a few ounces of beer, alcohol starts bonding with the receptors of the upper lobes which control decision-making. The more primitive section of the brain in the cortex below which governs our drive is carrying on unaffected. Normally, this part of the brain is kept in check by the upper lobes. Hangovers are caused by dehydration –  the brain shrinks and tugs on the meninges which causes the headache, Ellison said. “But before that, alcohol switches off the rational and decision making areas of the brain while leaving the areas to do with desire relatively intact, and so this explains beer goggles,” she added. So that’s the technical explanation. We prefer to think of them as mysterious enhancers of good looks.

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