Alcohol’s Effects in the Brain

Alcohol can make you laugh or it can make you cry, it can make you lively or make you sleepy, it can boost your confidence or make you act the fool. How can alcohol have all these different effects on people? If we want to know how alcohol affects our moods and behaviors we must first understand a bit about how the brain works.

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The human brain is made up of about 100 billion nerve cells (also known as neurons). Everything that we think, feel or do is the result of electrical signals passing back and forth between neurons. These electrical signals require the help of chemicals called neurotransmitters in order to pass from neuron to neuron. Scientists have identified around 60 different neurotransmitters so far and tell us that there are probably many more yet to be identified.

Different neurotransmitters have different effects in the brain. For example, serotonin is connected with mood 강남셔츠룸. People suffering from clinical depression tend to have a shortage of serotonin in their brains, and medications like Prozac can help to alleviate depression by increasing the availability of serotonin in the brain. Endorphins are a class of neurotransmitters which act as the brain’s natural painkillers.

Electrical signals in the brain are transmitted in the following manner: The neuron which is sending the electrical signal releases a neurotransmitter, and the neuron which is receiving the electrical signal accepts the neurotransmitter at a site which is called a receptor. When the neurotransmitter from the first neuron chemically binds to the receptor of the second neuron the electrical signal is transmitted. Neurotransmitters and receptors work like locks and keys: there is at least one different receptor for each different neurotransmitter. For example, an endorphin receptor can only be triggered by and endorphin, a serotonin receptor can only be triggered by serotonin, and so on. Different neurons have different receptors. Some neurons will only be triggered by serotonin, some only by an endorphin, and so on for all the different neurotransmitters.

Every mood altering substance from heroin to coffee has an effect on the neurotransmitter system of the brain. Some psychoactive drugs affect only one specific neurotransmitter system, whereas others affect many. Morphine, for example, mimics the neurotransmitter beta-endorphin–a natural painkiller found in the brain. Morphine is shaped like beta-endorphin and binds to the beta-endorphin receptors thus acting as a painkiller and also giving rise to feelings of pleasure. Caffeine is shaped like Adenosine and acts on the adenosine receptors. Alcohol on the other hand affects many different neurotransmitters, not just one, Why is this?

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