BLOOMINGTON, Ind., April 15 (UPI) -- Just the taste of beer, even without alcohol, causes the release of brain chemicals that make us want to drink more and become intoxicated, U.S. scientists say.
Indiana University School of Medicine researchers said the taste, without any effect from alcohol itself, can trigger dopamine release in the brain's reward regions associated with drinking and other drugs of abuse.
"We believe this is the first experiment in humans to show that the taste of an alcoholic drink alone, without any intoxicating effect from the alcohol, can elicit this dopamine activity in the brain's reward centers," neurology Professor David A. Kareken said in a university release Monday.
Researchers scanned the brains of volunteers as they tasted beer, and again as they tasted Gatorade.
The study participants received a very small amount of their preferred beer -- just half an ounce -- over a 15-minute time period, enabling them to taste the beer without resulting in any detectable blood alcohol level or intoxicating effect, the researchers said.
The scans showed significantly more dopamine activity following the taste of beer than the sports drink, they said.
The effect was significantly greater among participants with a family history of alcoholism, Kareken added, suggesting the release of dopamine in response to such alcohol-related cues may be an inherited risk factor for alcoholism.