Alcohol And Love Have Very Similar Effects On The Brain

A recent survey, published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, has found that alcohol and the “love hormone”oxytocin have a nearly identical consequence on behaviour.

Oxytocin is the hormone associated with love, hugs, orgasms and all things intimate. It plays a huge role in maternal bonding, and its also been found to be a key molecule in our reaction to romantic partners. When we get a surge oxytocin from an intimate moment, the hormone squelches areas of the brain, such as the prefrontal and limbic cortical circuits, which control how we perceive impressions of stress, inhibition and anxiety.

Does that voiced familiar? It was this thought that inspired the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham to look into the similarities between oxytocin and alcohol.

In a statement , Dr Ian Mitchell, one of the researchers said, “We thought it was an area worth exploring, so we pooled existing research into the effects of both oxytocin and alcohol and were struck by the unbelievable similarities between the two compounds.”

The research compared the neurological response to nasally ingested oxytocin and “acute” alcohol consumption. They found that the two compounds had a stunningly similar effect.

He added, “They appear to target different receptors within the brain, but cause common actions on GABA[ an inhibitory neurotransmitter] transmitting in the prefrontal cortex and the limbic structures. These neural circuits control how we perceive stress or anxiety, especially in social situations such as interviews, or perhaps even plucking up the fortitude to ask someone on a date. Taking compounds such as oxytocin and alcohol can induce these situations seem less daunting.”

However, if youve ever woken up on a Saturday morning with a sore head full of blurry, embarrassing memories, you know that alcohol is not a wonder drug and oxytocin is no different. The research find the negative effects of oxytocin and alcohol is likewise the same. Both compounds can induce people more aggressive, more boastful, more envious and less socially inclusive to those outside of one’s social group. By hampering our ability to perceive anxiety and anxiety, they can also put us at risk of harm.

Image credit: Lily Monster/ Flickr .( CC BY-NC 2.0 )

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