Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Binge Drinking and its Effects on YOUR Brain

I hate to be a downer but on this Tuesday after the long Labor Day weekend, but I cant help but feel, well, DUMB! I believe the culprit for my numbing demeanor is the A AA A AAAA Alcohol. Over the weekend I consumed alot of alcohol and this has been my M.O. since I began college, as I imagine I have this in common with most reading this. So this got me to thinking what kind of damage I have incurred over the years and if the cells I have nodoubtly killed can be regenerated.

First lets clear up what binge drinking is. It is commonly defined as consuming five or more drinks in about 2 hours for men, or four or more drinks for women. Most twenty somethings can accomplish this task with ease on a typically weekend night.

The following is an excerpt fromt he NewYork Times Titled "The Hangover that lasts" describing one particular study:

Much of the evidence for the impact of frequent binge-drinking comes from some simple but elegant studies done on lab rats by Fulton T. Crews and his former student Jennifer Obernier. Dr. Crews, the director of the University of North Carolina Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, and Dr. Obernier have shown that after a longstanding abstinence following heavy binge-drinking, adult rats can learn effectively — but they cannot relearn.

When put into a tub of water and forced to continue swimming until they find a platform on which to stand, the sober former binge-drinking rats and the normal control rats (who had never been exposed to alcohol) learned how to find the platform equally well. But when the experimenters abruptly moved the platform, the two groups of rats had remarkably different performances. The rats without previous exposure to alcohol, after some brief circling, were able to find the new location. The former binge-drinking rats, however, were unable to find the new platform; they became confused and kept circling the site of the old platform.

This circling occurs, Dr. Crews says, because the former binge-drinking rats continued to show neurotoxicity in the hippocampus long after (in rat years) becoming sober. On a microscopic level, Dr. Crews has shown that heavy binge-drinking in rats diminishes the genesis of nerve cells, shrinks the development of the branchlike connections between brain cells and contributes to neuronal cell death. The binges activate an inflammatory response in rat brains rather than a pure regrowth of normal neuronal cells. Even after longstanding sobriety this inflammatory response translates into a tendency to stay the course, a diminished capacity for relearning and maladaptive decision-making.

Studies have also shown that binge drinking clearly damages the adolescent brain more than the adult brain. The forebrain — specifically the orbitofrontal cortex, which uses associative information to envision future outcomes — can be significantly damaged by binge drinking. Indeed, heavy drinking in early or middle adolescence, with this consequent cortical damage, can lead to diminished control over cravings for alcohol and to poor decision-making. One can easily fail to recognize the ultimate consequences of one’s actions.

Does the research on rats have relevance for the more complex brains and behavior of humans? We have come to think so. Dr. Crews has shown that the cingulate cortex in the human brain shows signs of neuroinflammation after repeated alcohol binges, similar to that in rats. Sidney Cohen, one of the clearest thinkers and researchers on the effects of alcohol and drugs on humans (now deceased, he was at one time the director of the drug abuse division at the National Institute of Mental Health), pointed out that we are programmed as a species for accelerated learning in adolescence and young adulthood. This heightened capacity is the reason we go into apprenticeships or on to college and graduate school in these crucial years.

As Dr. Cohen noted, we not only learn specific skills during these years, with our brains having developed more fully, we also learn in a more subtle way how to deal with ambiguity. Ambiguity comes into play when the goalposts are moved. Can we change course? Can we deal with this ambiguity and with nuances?

The one piece of good news is that exercise has been shown to stimulate the regrowth and development of normal neural tissue in former alcohol-drinking mice. In fact, this neurogenesis was greater in the exercising former drinking mice than that induced by exercise in the control group that had never been exposed to alcohol.

So the bad news the damage is already done, good news is we can grow new brain tissue with controlled drinking and alot of exercise. Now we have double the reason so stay fit, not only does it make us attractive but it will make us smarter as well. If that doesn’t get ur lazy ass off the couch then u deserve to be fat and dumb.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

College Football is HERE!

It’s finally here; productivity plummets in anticipation of your favorite team taking the field Saturday. When grown men and women stuff whiskey down their pants and in their bras minutes before kickoff even though they have been drinking since 10:30 am, but the fear of not having a drink for even 1 minute is more terrifying than having ur starting QB sat on by Terrance Cody.

Why do we do this? Cus were Fucking awesome and can still rage like were in college. And some of us are still in college like my good friend TBarry he is still living the dream going into his 7th football season!!! Some view this as excessive but I applaud him, who else has the audacity to have their parents pay for 6.5 years of out of state tuition, and admit it you would trade ur Day job to be in BaRrys shoes right now. Why is he still in school? Well there is the semester he took off claiming he was "studying abroad in the SEC" during which time he slept on my couch in the Burn for 2 week attending every Derby Days event and thus becoming an honorary Sigma Chi. He says they "dropped" the class he needed this summer. But I call Bullshit he even walked in the spring effectively faking his graduation going the whole 9 yards having family and friends come in for it. This is only a fraction of what this kid has accomplished in his tenure in Oxford. So in the spirit of College Football we salute You Thomas Barry for not surrendering to social norms that say u must graduate in 4 years and go get some dead end job. You say NO to the MAN even though ur going on 25 and Freshman girls probably think ur creepy, but that’s okay because when we wake up at 8am to go to work your sleeping in till noon or you may be up also but that is for a totally different reason.....

I pulled these classics off FaceBook