Every year, World Brain Day is observed on July 22 in a bid to raise public awareness about brain health. This year, the theme of the day is ‘Brain Health for all’ as “our brains continue to be challenged by pandemics, wars, climate change and the myriad of disorders impacting human existence globally,” according to the World Federation of Neurology.
As we mark this day today, let us understand the impact of alcohol on our brain health. Did you know that it takes just five minutes for alcohol to reach your brain, and just 10 minutes to begin showing its impact?
According to Dr Sachin Kandhari, Senior Neurosurgeon and Managing Director – Institute of Brain and Spine (IBS) Hospital, New Delhi, “Your body responds to alcohol rapidly. It enters your bloodstream after being absorbed through your stomach’s lining. Once there, it travels throughout your body’s tissues.”
The signs of intoxication depend on the alcohol’s impact on different areas of the brain. “This is due to the fact that different brain functions are performed by different regions of the brain,” he said.
Let us understand the cycle of alcohol as it affects different parts of the brain, one by one.
First, it has an impact on the cerebral cortex/cerebrum. Dr Kandhari explained, “This region of the brain controls judgement, thinking, and the inhibition of impulsive conduct. Alcohol can impair thinking processes in the cerebral cortex, potentially resulting in poor judgement. Alcohol lowers inhibition, making one more talkative and more confident.”
Next, alcohol affects the cerebellum which is responsible for movement and balance. “In order to avoid falling or having slurred speech, people may endure a loss of balance, uncoordinated movements, etc.”
How does it impact you?
As mentioned, alcohol affects parts of the brain which are responsible for balance, memory, speech and judgment. As such, there’s an increase in the frequency of injuries, and speech and concentration-related adverse outcomes.
“Alcohol has a variety of physiological effects. Some effects are brief and quick, while others build up over time and may have a substantial impact on your physical, mental, and overall quality of life,” Dr Kandhari explained.
While many consume alcohol occasionally as it has a short-term positive influence on our mood, it can have long-term negative repercussions on one’s mental health. “It has been related to a variety of mental health problems, including depression, memory loss, and suicide,” the expert elucidated.