MRI study finds men, ‘blushing individuals’ more sensitive to alcohol

On scans from several different MRI techniques, regular alcohol consumption correlates with regional changes in the brain as well as with various cognitive abilities. And those most sensitive to alcohol’s viewable and observable effects are men and individuals whose faces blush upon intake.

That’s according to researchers at Shantou University in China whose findings are running in the March edition of the American Journal of Neuroradiology.

The authors of the study performed conventional MRI, diffusion kurtosis imaging and 3D arterial spin labeling on 24 healthy volunteers (12 men, 12 women) before the subjects drank a dose of alcohol portioned to their body weight and after, at 30-minute and 1-hour intervals.

The team found diffusion kurtosis imaging, a variation on diffusion tensor imaging that supplies an estimate of the skewed distribution of water diffusion, showed an increase in mean kurtosis and fractional anisotropy at the half-hour intake mark in most of the 20 brain regions the team evaluated.

Meanwhile, mean diffusion was decreased in several brain regions at the 1-hour mark, while the 3D arterial spin-labeling revealed heightened cerebral blood flow in most brain regions.

Additionally, perfusion decreased in the anterior commissure, which plays a key role in the brain’s regulation of pain sensation.

Further, the team found, regional changes in the brain correlated with various behavioral performances, blush response and male gender.

“The current study demonstrated that brain areas with blood flow alterations detected by 3D arterial spin labeling were highly consistent with susceptible areas detected by diffusion kurtosis imaging after acute alcohol intake,” the authors wrote in their discussion. “Because blushing individuals are more sensitive to alcohol with acute effects, people who blush should stop drinking on the basis of current findings.”

The study is available online in full for free.