How Alcohol Works

High Times

Cerebral Cortex
The cerebral cortex is the highest portion of the brain. The cortex processes information from your senses, does your "thought" processing and consciousness (in combination with a structure called the basal ganglia), initiates most voluntary muscle movements and influences lower-order brain centers. In the cortex, alcohol does the following:

  • Depresses the behavioral inhibitory centers - The person becomes more talkative, more self-confident and less socially inhibited.
  • Slows down the processing of information from the senses - The person has trouble seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting; also, the threshold for pain is raised.
  • Inhibits thought processes - The person does not use good judgment or think clearly.

These effects get more pronounced as the BAC increases.

Limbic System
The limbic system consists of areas of the brain called the hippocampus and septal area. The limbic system controls emotions and memory. As alcohol affects this system, the person is subject to exaggerated states of emotion (anger, aggressiveness, withdrawal) and memory loss.