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* ON THE BRAIN The organ most sensitive to alcohol is the brain. Alcohol affects the entire body, but its effects on the functions of the brain are the most noticeable —and to the person who is drinking, the most important. People drink alcohol because of the way it makes them feel, ignoring the damaging effects on the brain itself.
The brain reacts to alcohol in stages.
The first portion of the brain to be affected is the cerebrum — the outermost layer, which is responsible for controlling the senses, speech, understanding, and judgment. Alcohol depresses first the parts of the brain that normally inhibit or control actions and emotions. It appears as if alcohol —although it is a depressant —is acting as a stimulant because, as these higher centers of the brain are knocked out. the drinker feels liberated from moral and legal restrictions. The loss of these restraints can cause exhilaration and loss of inhibitions. The alcohol continues to depress brain functions, resulting in slurred speech, unsteady walk, blurry vision, and loss of co-ordination.
Drinkers often feel that their manual skills have been improved because their judgment has been impaired, while in reality their reaction times are slowed and their muscle coordination is less efficient. Next. the drinker experiences various exaggerations of the emotions that can range from violence and aggressiveness to tearfulness and withdrawal. If a person continues to drink, the body protects itself from further damage by falling asleep or "passing out". Alcohol destroys brain cells which, unlike the blood cells it also destroys, are irreplaceable. Alcohol deteriorates the memory as well as the ability to learn new things.
REALLY? The Claim: Alcohol Kills Brain Cells By ANAHAD O'CONNOR Published: November 23, 2004 HE FACTS When ancient Greeks wanted to reassure guests that their wine had not been spiked with poison, they toasted to good health. While that may be less of a worry today, there remain hazards from indulging in too much alcohol - including, of course, hangovers. But one thing people who drink socially probably don't need to worry about is sacrificing brain cells in the process. Advertisement The research indicates that adults who drink in moderation are not in danger of losing brain cells. The notion that alcohol snuffs out brain cells has been around for years. Many studies have linked drinking with mental deficits, and long-term damage from years of heavy drinking has been well documented. The developing brain is particularly vulnerable, some studies show, putting teenagers and unborn children at greatest risk. But Dr. Roberta J. Pentney, a former researcher at the State University of New York at Buffalo, found that alcohol disrupts brain function in adults by damaging message-carrying dendrites on neurons in the cerebellum, a structure involved in learning and motor coordination. This reduces communication between neurons, alters their structure and causes some of the impairment associated with intoxication. It does not kill off entire cells, however. A study in 1999 that examined the brains of alcoholics appeared to confirm this. Published in the journal Neuroscience, the research found that subjects who developed Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a severe disorder that ravages the memory and stems from a thiamine deficiency associated with alcoholism, had a marked reduction in cell density in the cerebellum. But there was little difference between alcoholics who did not develop the syndrome and normal subjects, suggesting that it was largely a lack of thiamine in the Wernicke-Korsakoff patients that killed off their cells. Other studies, including one published in The British Medical Journal in 1997, have produced similar findings. THE BOTTOM LINE Alcohol may not kill brain cells per se, but it can impair brain function, among other things.