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Boiling Point


way. Your brain makes loads of different NT’s and each one elicits a different reaction from your body. Alcohol affects how much certain NT’s are produced in your brain, which affects your behaviour. For example, alcohol represses your central nervous system by reducing the produc- tion of excitory NT’s and increas- ing the production of inhibitory NT’s.


Like many other drugs, alcohol also increases the production of ‘reward NT’s’ like dopamine and


Hangovers... Your Brain’s Revenge by Alex Campbell


n the wake of several months of end of year drinks, Christmas parties, New Year’s eve shindigs, boozy days at the cricket, BBQ’s, liquid lunches, rum balls, cham- pagne breakfasts, port-wine brandy-soaked sponge cake trifles, plum puddings doused in brandy served with brandy sauce and the odd cocktail party for good measure, you and your liver may be feeling a little worse for wear.


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You may also be experiencing that ‘foggy feeling’ as you strug- gle to return to work after such a boozy break. Most of us under- stand what such indulgence does to our livers, but have you ever wondered how enjoying yourself so much over the festive season affects your brain?


Let’s begin by going back to basics. Alcohol is metabolised in your liver – slowly. So if you drink faster than your liver works, you feel the effects in your brain. Your brain is connected to every part of your body via a complicated set of nerve cells called neurons. There are approximately 100


76 • the Beast


billion neurons in your brain and these are organised in a highly complex way. When you are stimulated by something in your environment, like light, smells, sounds, or physical sensation, the neurons in your body produce chemical or electrical signals, which travel from neuron to neu- ron up to your brain.


Different regions in your brain control specific bodily functions. For example, your cerebellum controls your coordination and movement, your frontal cortex is involved in cognitive processes like thought, and your occipital lobe processes visual informa- tion. So now, after a few too many schooners, you’ll know which part of your brain is being affected if you’re stumbling, can’t understand basic instructions, or can’t focus on the Garlo’s menu. Once it has processed the information received from your neurons, your brain responds by producing chemicals called neu- rotransmitters (NT’s). These NT’s stimulate your neurons causing your body to react in a certain


serotonin, which are substances that make us feel very, very good. These NT’s are usually produced to reward the body for doing something good, like eating or having sex, and are also involved in the development of alcohol dependence. Medical researchers warn the over-40s that alcohol-related damage to the brain may be irreversible. At any age, becoming dependent on alcohol (or any drug for that matter) can also permanently damage your brain. Women are particularly vulnerable to devel- oping alcoholism and suffering from its effects.


So enjoy yourself in modera- tion and if you have overdone it this silly season perhaps consider giving your body a break. If you think you have a bit of a prob- lem, or may have done yourself some damage over the holidays, go and see your doctor. To hear more about all things


scientific, environmental and health-related, tune-in to Boiling Point on 89.7 FM Eastside Radio, every Tuesday at 6.00pm.


www.thebeast.com.au


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