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Alcohol dulls brain 'alarm' that monitors mistakes, MU study finds
Date:9/1/2011

se who had consumed alcohol were less likely to slow down and be more careful in the task following errors.

"In tasks like the one we used, although we encourage people to try to respond as quickly as possible, it is very common for people to respond more slowly following an error, as a way of trying to regain self-control. That's what we saw in our placebo group. The alcohol group participants didn't do this," Bartholow said.

The researchers also found that the size of the brain's alarm signal was strongly associated with participants' mood at the time of the test, and that most of the participants in the alcohol group reported feeling "less negative" after drinking than before. Bartholow said the findings are an important step forward in understanding how alcohol's effects on the brain contribute to the kinds of mistakes and social blunders people sometimes make when they're drunk.

"There are certain circumstances under which reducing the brain's alarm signal could be seen as a good thing, because some people, like those with anxiety disorders, are hyper-sensitive to things going wrong. In some people, a small amount of alcohol can take the edge off those anxious feelings, but consistently drinking as a way to reduce anxiety can lead to serious problems, including alcoholism," said Bartholow. "But generally speaking, having a strong brain response to mistakes promotes better self-control and helps people avoid making further mistakes in the future."


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Contact: Steven Adams
AdamsST@missouri.edu
573-882-8353
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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