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December 03, 2018

Taste testing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer feels the same to your brain, study found

Scientists say that there's no difference in acute brain reward upon consumption of beer with or without alcohol

Alcohol Beer
stock image of beers Photo by rawpixel/ on Unsplash

The reward associated with drinking beer — during the first glass, anyway — might just be attributed with the beverage's flavor, one study found.

Scientists took MRIs of regular beer drinkers as they taste-tested beer with and without alcohol. The results revealed that the reward system in drinkers' brains was the same for both beverages.

Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands took brain scans of 21 healthy men ages 18 to 35. They drank a non-alcoholic Amstel and the same non-alcoholic beer with alcohol added, raising its ABV raised to 4.8 percent, according to Food and Wine. 

The study found that when the drinkers expected to drink regular alcoholic beer, the feeling of reward recorded in the brain was the same with or without alcohol. This could mean that when we take the first few sips of beer the feeling of reward just comes from the flavor — not the buzz.

Scientists did point out, however, that the entire drinking experience was not the same for both.

Apparently "taste activation" was significantly greater for the alcoholic beer because of "sensory simulation by ethanol rather than reward."

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