Why drunken people do embarrassing things

Sept. 2, 2011 at 10:36 PM
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COLUMBIA, Mo., Sept. 2 (UPI) -- After people have been drinking, alcohol dulls the brain "signal" that warns them they are making a mistake, U.S. researchers say.

Bruce Bartholow, associate professor of psychology in the University of Missouri College of Arts and Science, and colleagues measured the brain activity of 67 participants ages 21-35 as they completed a challenging computer task designed to elicit some errors.

About one-third of the participants were given alcoholic drinks, while the rest were given no alcohol or a placebo beverage.

In addition to monitoring their brain activity, the researchers also measured changes in participants' mood, their accuracy in the computer task, as well as their perceived accuracy.

"When people make mistakes, activity in a part of the brain responsible for monitoring behavior increases, essentially sending an alarm signal to other parts of the brain indicating that something went wrong," Bartholow says in a statement. "Our study isn't the first to show that alcohol reduces this alarm signal, but contrary to previous studies, our study shows that alcohol doesn't reduce your awareness of mistakes -- it reduces how much you care about making those mistakes."

The findings are scheduled to be published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

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