Even the taste of beer is enough to stimulate some beer drinkers’ brains and make them want to have a glass, new research indicates.
The study was done on 49 men by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine, the BBC says. The participants ranged “from social to heavy drinking, mean age 25, with a varied family history of alcoholism,” according to the study’s abstract.
Researchers randomly sprayed either water, Gatorade, or the participant’s favorite beer into his mouth while he was hooked up to a brain scanner.
The men got half an ounce of fluid over a 15-minute period, not enough alcohol to create a buzz. Yet the brain scans of those who received the beer showed a surge in dopamine, a chemical understood as pleasurable or rewarding by the brain.
Past studies have shown that dopamine is linked to addiction, although it plays many roles, according to The Guardian. The men were more likely to say they wanted to have a drink after receiving a dose of beer.
The scans also showed men with a family history of alcoholism had a stronger dopamine reaction than others, suggesting the risk for alcoholism is inherited.
The results were accepted for publication in the academic journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
Another recent study found that the beer-brewing process may hold secrets for treating diseases including diabetes and cancer.