News: Alcohol is a social lubricant, study confirms
Alcohol is a social lubricant, study confirmsJuly 30th, 2012 in Psychology & Psychiatry
Moderate boozing encourages 'true smiles' and group engagement.
(HealthDay) -- You've seen those commercials with fun-loving people sharing a laugh over a cold brew. Now, a new study lends scientific support to the notion of alcohol as a social icebreaker.
Researchers found that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol in a group setting boosts people's emotions and enhances social bonding.
The study also found that moderate consumption of alcohol can minimize negative emotions -- or at least reduce displays such as being silent in a group or making faces with wrinkled noses or pursed lips.
In the study, published recently in the journal Psychological Science, researchers randomly assigned 720 men and women to groups of three people who didn't know one another. They said previous studies have focused on alcohol's effect on individuals.
"We felt that many of the most significant effects of alcohol would more likely be revealed in an experiment using a social setting," study author Michael Sayette, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, said in a journal news release.
In total, 20 groups were formed consisting of every combination of genders. Each group was assigned one of the following scenarios: drink an alcoholic beverage, drink a placebo beverage or drink a nonalcoholic control beverage.
The alcoholic beverage contained one part vodka and 3.5 parts cranberry-juice cocktail, with a lower dose of vodka for women. To make placebo beverages more credible, glasses were smeared with vodka.
While seated at a round table, the participants drank three of their assigned beverages over the course of 36 minutes.
Group drinking sessions were videotaped so the researchers could analyze individual and group interactions frame by frame for facial action and group speech behavior.
Alcohol fueled social bonding and increased the amount of time people spent talking to one another. It also increased the frequency and enhanced the coordination of "true" smiles, the researchers said: All three members of the groups drinking alcohol were more likely to smile at the same time than the other groups.
Imbibers also were more likely to have all three members stay engaged in the group discussion.
Alcohol affected how strongly participants agreed with survey statements such as, "I like this group" and "the members of this group are interested in what I have to say."
[From these results], "we can begin to ask questions of great interest to alcohol researchers: Why does alcohol make us feel better in group settings? Is there evidence to suggest a particular participant may be vulnerable to developing a problem with alcohol?" Sayette said.
The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about alcohol.
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"Alcohol is a social lubricant, study confirms." July 30th, 2012. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-07-alcohol-social-lubricant.html
Robert Karl Stonjek
Ethanol Seeking by Long Evans Rats Is Not Always a Goal-Directed Behavior
Regina A. Mangieri, Roberto U. Cofresí, Rueben A. Gonzales
Excerpt: "Two parallel and interacting processes are said to underlie animal behavior, whereby learning and performance of a behavior is at first via conscious and deliberate (goal-directed) processes, but after initial acquisition, the behavior can become automatic and stimulus-elicited (habitual)."
JK: Starting with conscious and deliberate processes excludes evidence that olfactory/pheromonal input elicits unconscious affects on behavior via its effect on hormone-secreting nerve cells of brain tissue. (A similar approach was used by early ethologists to determine that there was no need to study the sense of smell in avian species. It resulted in claims that we are more like birds than like other mammals. Supposedly, we are visual and auditory creatures like birds because people and birds don't rely on their sense of smell. But see Kin recognition and inbreeding avoidance in wild birds: the first evidence for individual kin-related odour recognition Of course birds have the olfactory acuity and specificity (e.g., chemical senses) required by all species from microbes to man. Without the ability to recognize self / non-self differences, vertebrates cannot determine the differences between a nutrient chemical (food source) and a conspecific (potential mate).So what does that have to do with ethanol odor?
Excerpt: "...ethanol-induced neural adaptations in dopamine signaling can occur after a single exposure to 10S10E in the operant context."
JK: Neural adaptations are receptor-mediated events that occur with ethanol exposure. No operant conditioning is required.
Excerpt: In short, we propose that both variable interval reinforcement schedules and ethanol exposure may enhance the ability of sensory stimuli representing reward availability to drive instrumental actions by interfering with the spatiotemporal precision of dopaminergic modulation of synaptic plasticity.
JK: That proposal appears to make variable interval reinforcement schedules causal to ethanol odor-induced neural adaptations in dopamine signaling that occur after a single exposure. But since training cannot cause ethanol-induced neural adaptations in dopamine signaling, it must be the ethanol odor that classically conditions the receptor-mediated response (as if it were a food odor or pheromone). Thus, the importance of olfactory/pheromonal input that was initially dismissed in birds and then incorrectly placed here in the secondary position of a study of mammals is what actually causes the change in hormone signaling after a single exposure.
James V. Kohl
Medical laboratory scientist
On 8/3/2012 10:22 PM, james kohl wrote:
Conditioned drug response
A stimulus that is present when a drug is administered or consumed may eventually evoke a conditioned physiological response that mimics the effect of the drug. This is sometimes the case with the smell of alcohol.
Food odors are signals that consistently precede food intake can become conditioned stimuli for a set of bodily responses that prepares the body for food and digestion.
Conditioned emotional response
As an adaptive mechanism, emotional conditioning helps shield an individual from harm or prepare it for important biological events such as sexual activity. Thus, a stimulus that has occurred before sexual interaction comes to cause sexual arousal, which prepares the individual for sexual contact. Pheromones are the stimuli.
The smell of alcohol, the smell of food, and the smell of other people cause receptor-mediated changes in intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression in nerve cells of brain tissue in the medial preoptic area of the anterior hypothalamus, which is the area of the organ called the brain that secretes the hormone called gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH).
The secretion of GnRH controls behavior, which is typically indirectly associated with other sensory input, like visual, auditory, and tactile input. But only olfactory pheromonal input can classically condition the hormone responses that affect behavior.
That's because there are no training receptors in any cells of any brain tissue that could link them to gene activation or to hormone secretion that could only then link training (e.g., "operant conditioning") to behavior. For constrast we have very strong statement from those who understand the biology of behavior. GnRH, for example is responsible for Classicalconditioning: induction of luteinizing hormone and testosterone secretion in anticipation of sexual activity
"The functional significance of the conditioned change in LH secretion lies principally in the unequivocal demonstration that environmental cues can activate the pituitary-testis axis in a way that mimics, in every respect, the activation achieved by exposure to a female."p-1040.
However, the functional significance of alcohol odor and food odor is also due to the epigenetic effects on receptor-mediated changes in the GnRH-secreting nerve cells -- as detailed in my published works.