Just as the smell of freshly brewed coffee may compel you to pour a steaming cup of java, a small taste of beer may activate part of your brain's reward system and trigger the urge for more, a new study suggests.
Researchers have discovered that sensory cues associated with drinking may stimulate certain parts of the brain and cause a craving for more alcohol. Giving people a very small amount of the brand of beer they most frequently consume produced a desire to drink that was correlated with the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward-and-pleasure centers.
The study also showed that the amount of dopamine released was greater in those who had parents or siblings with alcoholism.
"This is the first human demonstration that a stimulus that is reliably associated with alcohol association -- that flavor alone, without any significant amount of alcohol -- is able to induce a dopamine response," said study author David Kareken, a professor at Indiana University School of Medicine.
The research was published in the April 15 issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
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