Here's What Your Brain Looks Like After Too Much Whiskey - The Whiskey Wash

Here’s What Your Brain Looks Like After Too Much Whiskey

Ever notice if you drink too much whiskey you become, well you know, drunk, smashed, blasted, happy or whatever you want to call it? We all know from how our behavior changes when we’ve had too much, but what isn’t quite as clear is how the brain reacts to overconsumption of strong alcohol. Now, some fascinating new MRI images from scientists at a Canadian university can give us some clue.

McMaster University engineering professor Mike Noseworthy, taking note not too long ago about how portions of Canada have stricter drinking and driving laws centered on lower blood alcohol levels, wondered if blood alcohol concentration limits accurately reflect what’s going on in the brain and its functions when the person it is attached to is impaired.

“You can’t exactly take a brain biopsy to find out what the alcohol content in the brain is,” said Noseworthy, co-­director of McMaster’s School of Biomedical Engineering, in a statement. “We’re inferring that if it’s in the blood, the same concentration is in the brain.”

In these brain scans, blue represents a more chaotic brain, while yellow shows less chaos. These images show a person's brain before drinking 6 ounces of whisky (left), immediately after drinking the whisky (middle) and 90 mins after drinking (right).  (image via McMaster University)

In these brain scans, blue represents a more chaotic brain, while yellow shows less chaos. These images show a person’s brain before drinking 6 ounces of whisky (left), immediately after drinking the whisky (middle) and 90 mins after drinking (right). (image via McMaster University)

Using his knowledge of MRIs in the study of a variety of medical conditions, and working alongside a team of students, Noseworthy set up a study in which 14 male participants were recruited to consume six ounces of whiskey each. Afterwards they were put under a MRI scan, where particular sections of their brains were looked at to “extract a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrum, which plots signals of different frequencies that correspond to different molecules.”

Having collected this research information along with some other data from a process known as blood oxygen level-dependent imaging, which detects spikes of activity in the brain when bloods starts flowing, it was discovered “the more intoxicated someone becomes, the less complex their brain patterns become, making it hard to think clearly, respond quickly and react to normal social cues.”

Put another way, in a normally functioning person the brain is observed as being “chaotic,” or more active, so one can think more clearly. The reduced brain pattern as a result of too much alcohol consumption parallel in someways findings of patterns in the minds of Alzheimer’s patients, in which a malfunctioning brain makes it tougher to think clearly and rapidly adjust to change.

So…the moral of this story? Responsible whiskey consumption and not driving when even slightly impaired.

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