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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How Alcohol Affects the Central Nervous System

The Central Nervous System (CNS) includes the brain and the spinal cord. The most important parts of the CNS are protected by bones. The skull protects the brain and the spine protects the spinal cord.

The nervous system is made up of the CNS and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The PNS includes the neurons, or nerves, that form a network that carries information to and from the neck and arms, trunk, legs, skeletal muscles, and internal organs. Neurons can send nerve signals to and from the brain at up to 200 miles per hour. When the nervous system is working smoothly, it is amazingly efficient.

The CNS is responsible for taking in information through the senses, controlling motor function, as well as thinking, understanding, and reasoning. It also controls emotion.

But alcohol is a depressant of the CNS; meaning it slows activity down. Does this surprise you? Most people think that alcohol is a “pick-me-up” experience because, initially, when people begin to drink, it causes them to become more animated and less reserved. But the opposite occurs as they continue to drink and more alcohol enters the brain.

The degree to which brain activity slows down depends on how much, and how fast, a person drinks. Some effects people experience include:

• Altered speech
• Hazy thinking
• Slowed reaction time
• Dulled hearing
• Impaired vision
• Weakened muscles
• Foggy memory

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