I love research. It makes bad food good, exercise bad, proves that coffee can save whales and suggests that looking at boobies promotes ocular health. That is, until the next study refutes the previous findings.
The latest piece of presumably taxpayer-funded academia suggests that the very taste of beer, independent of alcohol, can trigger a key reward chemical in the brain. Neurologists at the University of Indiana gave participants (all 49 of them) the choice between taking a sip of their favourite brew or a sip of Gatorade and scanned their grey matter for response indicators.
Using something called positron emission tomography (which I’m pretty sure can also be used to defeat a Level 3 Troll in Dungeons & Dragons) researchers were able to track the release of dopamine from the brain in response to the different beverages. Dopamine released from a bit of the brain called the ventral striatum, which provides the sensation of reward, was monitored and found to make all the lights flash on the machine that goes *PING!!*.
The study found a noticeable spike in response when beer was consumed (in 15ml measures so that the alcohol was not a factor) compared to the Gatorade. On a more serious note, it also found the response to be stronger in participants with a family history of alcoholism. Researchers believe this study is the first to draw a link between beer taste alone and reward response from the brain.
For those of us who are not subject to the types of chemical addiction type proclivities, this proves what our tellies have been saying for so many years. A hard earned thirst deserves a big cold beer and that it may actually be in our nature to want to reward ourselves with a couple of well chosen frothies. Amen to that.
Details of the story are here