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Are you wrecking your brain? Chilling pictures reveal shocking effects of alcohol, cigarettes and even caffeine on the mind

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/articl...-mind.html

By Jerome Burne

Last updated at 12:29 AM on 5th May 2009

What exactly are you doing to your brain when you drink alcohol or coffee? If you think they can’t be doing much harm, the pictures on the opposite page may come as a shock.

They show that the effects of long-term and heavy use can be just as striking as the damage caused by illegal drugs such as cannabis or cocaine.

They can even result in a pattern of ‘holes’ in the brain similar to those caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The images come from a remarkable new book - Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.

Already a bestseller in the U.S., it was written by neuroscientist and psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, who is professor of psychiatry-and human behaviour at the University of California, Irvine, and director of the Amen Clinics. In the book, he explains how behaviour such as anxiety, anger or impulsiveness could be related to the way specific areas in your brain work.

For the past 15 years he has been using scanning technology to assess brain activity in people with ‘psychological’ problems.

What these scans have shown is that often these problems are not actually psychological, but are biological - some area of the patient’s brain isn’t functioning well, but is instead under or over-active, he says.

Sometimes this ‘ malfunctioning’ can be due to substances, illegal or legal, which effectively shut down the blood supply to areas of the brain.

This reduces activity in these areas, and, depending on the area affected, this affects the patient’s behaviour.

The caffeine and nicotine scan opposite is of the chief executive of a large company whom Dr Amen knew socially.

‘He came to see me complaining of low energy and a difficulty concentrating,’ says Dr Amen.

‘A scan of his brain showed extensive damage. He denied heavy use of drugs or drink, but admitted to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and drinking three pots of coffee.’

Just how much brain damage coffee or alcohol will cause in any individual varies hugely - some people can handle a lot while others are far more vulnerable, says Amen.

‘A cup of coffee a day or a couple of glasses of wine a week is no big deal, but eight cups or two glasses a day is too much for most people.’

As a result of his work, Dr Amen avoids any kind of stimulants.

‘When I was 16, I got drunk on a six-pack of Michelob beer and half a bottle of champagne and was sick for three days,’ he says.

‘After that I stayed away from alcohol. Now, because of what I’ve seen, I also avoid caffeine and diet soft drinks because they often contain caffeine.’

He also runs a programme in Californian schools to make children aware of what recreational drugs can do to their brains.

‘They don’t believe there could be a problem until they see the pictures and then their response is: “Omigod!” That can be enough for them to stop.’

Indeed, you might argue that those who want drug classifications loosened should also look closely at these scans.

The scanner that Dr Amen uses is known as SPECT (photon emission computerised tomography) and is specially useful for showing brain activity.

More familiar brain scanners such as PET and MRI can show the structure of the brain in greater detail but they don’t tell you what it is doing.

If the brain was a town, these scanners would show the buildings while SPECT reveal the actual traffic flow.

SPECT scans are also widely used to check for cardiac disease as they can reveal problems with the flow of blood around your heart.

Before the brain scan, the patient is injected with a compound which contains a minute amount of radioactive material - about as much as is found in a standard chest X-ray. Once in the bloodstream, it attaches itself to brain cells. Then for 15 minutes the scanner slowly rotates around the head building up a 360-degree image of the brain that can be viewed from any angle.

In the images on these pages, you can see ‘dead spots’ - where there is no brain activity because of little blood flow - revealed black holes.

Depending on the location of these dead spots, the patient's behaviour will change.

For instance, if these occur at the front of the brain, which controls forward thinking , your sense of judgment deteriorates.

When it comes to the effect of caffeine and alcohol, the good news is that once you stop taking them, the brain recovers (and the same may be true for other substances).





This actually really scared me. I drink a lot of coffee and tea. Then I got to the last sentence:

"When it comes to the effect of caffeine and alcohol, the good news is that once you stop taking them, the brain recovers (and the same may be true for other substances)."

No permanent damage. Ho hum.
(07-19-2011, 06:11 PM)Iolanthe Wrote: [ -> ]This actually really scared me. I drink a lot of coffee and tea. Then I got to the last sentence:

"When it comes to the effect of caffeine and alcohol, the good news is that once you stop taking them, the brain recovers (and the same may be true for other substances)."

No permanent damage. Ho hum.

Yeah, I drink a lot of alcohol, and I'm thinking I should cut down.
The brain scans they showed did not illustrate just caffeine usage's effects on the brain...the first bad scan was of heavy caffeine AND nicotine usage combined...and something tells me it's really just the heavy smoking that's at fault.  Where's a scan for coffee drinkers who don't partake in the other two indulgences?
Quote:A cup of coffee a day or a couple of glasses of wine a week is no big deal, but eight cups or two glasses a day is too much for most people"

Wasn't it only a couple of years ago we were being told that two glasses of wine a day is good for you?
Screw it. I'm never going to be an academic, so I'll enjoy God's good pleasures, get a little dumber, and probably live a holier life because of it. Now pass the beer :cheers: sip sip
*pops open a beer. Cool story, bro.
(07-19-2011, 09:40 PM)piabee Wrote: [ -> ]*pops open a beer. Cool story, bro.

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[Image: 26194_10150138638910151_644980150_117678...1961_n.jpg]

Way to beat me, Cassius.
There goes my new book idea... "The Bourbon & Dunkin Donuts Diet".

OK, it's really an autobiography.  ;)
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