Brain scan reveals an important link between binge drinking and empathy


The experience of empathy is both innate and abstract. There are different definitions of empathy, but it is often described as the ability to understand another person’s situation, feeling, or attitude, without actually experiencing oneself. Scientists do not fully understand Why the We are sympathetic, but the benefits are clear. Empathy is that which allows people to build emotional bridges, which enables compassion and help.

And while empathy may seem like an unstoppable reflex – you see someone in pain, so you feel for them and their pain – it’s not necessarily so. Research suggests that some people, at times, avoid feeling empathetic because it requires too much mental effort; It can feel cognitively expensive to carry someone else’s emotional weight. And feeling empathy is particularly difficult, the research published in the journal on Thursday Neuroimage: Clinical The claim is, if you are a heavy drinker.

Scientists at the University of Sussex demonstrated that the brains of binge drinkers put more effort into feeling empathy for others, as people whose brains are not binge. In this study, binge drinking was defined as drinking more than 60 grams of pure alcohol while sitting at least once in the last 30 days. It is about three-quarters of a bottle of wine, or two and a half pinch lager.

The discovery makes one especially happy to see the state of the world, when empathy is arguably important for survival. We are also drinking more during Kovid-19 – too much.

At the onset of the epidemic, liquor sales were classified as essential businesses, and in March, liquor sales jumped compared to 2019. Researchers looking at our drinking habits say it is too soon to know the long-term effects of pandemic drinking, but a recent 320 survey of adult Canadian drinkers suggests that people use alcohol to deal with Kovid-19. Increased alcohol consumption, solitary drinking, and strong motives for drinking were independently associated with experiencing “alcohol problems” at intervals of 30 days.

Theodora Duca is a professor at the University of Sussex and the lead author of studies on binge drinking and empathy. He explained to me that data from his team suggests that binge drinkers need to work harder to feel empathy for others in pain, as compared to non-binge drinkers in brain activity developed.

“This means in everyday life that people who are binge drinkers may struggle to easily understand the pain of others,” explains Doka. “It’s not that binge drinkers feel less sympathetic – it’s just that they have to put more brain resources into being able to do so.

“However, in some circumstances, when resources are limited, binge drinkers may struggle to engage in a sensitive response to others.”

“… People who drink alcohol can struggle Experience pain Others as easily as non-binge drinkers. “

In the study, 71 participants, some from France and others from the United Kingdom, observed their brain activity in the fMRI scanner while they performed a “pain perception task”. Everyone was quiet during the observation, but half of the participants were classified as binge drinkers.

In the task, participants were shown a picture of a limb injured. They were then asked to imagine that the organ was either theirs or that of another person. After this, he was asked to explain how much pain there was with the image. The goal of the study, Doka states, was to expand “recent evidence that binge drinking shows empathy in a person using an objective method of pain perception in themselves or a stranger, and that response with brain imaging Measure.

Blue represents the parts of the brain that are engaged in facial perception, while green represents the parts of body perception.Nancy Kanwisher

“By identifying how the brain responds to pain stimuli that normally involve empathy, we can better understand some of the mechanisms that lead to binge-drinking behavior,” she says .

The experiment showed that binge drinking participants struggled more to adopt the other person’s viewpoint. There was evidence of this conflict in his brain. In the “pain-other condition”, a visual field of the brain involved in identifying body parts showed high levels of hyperactivity only in the brains of binge drinkers. This area is called the Fusiform Body Area (FBA).

Duca describes finding the FBA as “intriguing”, and she hopes that people consider her research “through the notion that empathy is important for optimal social interaction.” It helps us understand and react to the needs of others – and it seems important to prevent young adults from drinking heavily. Previous studies have found that decreased empathy is associated with increased alcohol consumption in people between the ages of 13 and 20.

How can we apply this discovery to our current state of epidemic-induced drinking? Doka’s advice is:

“All I can say is not to try to drink heavily, be empowered, and always try to understand and respond to the needs of others.”