The taste of beer may trigger the release of dopamine, the pleasure chemical, in the brain, a study by the Indiana University School of Medicine said on Monday.
In the study, researchers gave 49 male volunteers a tiny taste of their favorite beer over the course of 15 minutes — enough to taste the beer but not enough to cause a change in blood-alcohol level.
As these volunteers sipped the beer, the researchers scanned their brains. After a taste of beer, the men's brains showed higher increases in dopamine, a brain chemical associated widely with pleasure, than taste of soft drink or water.
The effect was even greater among these male volunteers who had a history of alcoholism.
"We believe this is the first experiment in humans to show that the taste of an alcoholic drink can elicit the dopamine activity in the brain's reward centers," the study's senior author, neuroscientist David Kareken of the Indiana University School of Medicine, said in a statement.
The findings are not surprising but having a way to assess predisposition to alcohol abuse could be useful, David Kareken said.