Beer drinkers start feeling happy at the smallest sip, even before any alcohol registers, a new study suggests. Indiana University researchers found that dopamine levels in the brain rose when drinkers had just a tiny amount of beer, before any alcohol buzz was possible, reports LiveScience. The not-so-funny part: Dopamine levels shot up the most in those who had a family history of alcoholism, suggesting that some kind of hereditary risk factor was at play, reports the Los Angeles Times.
"We believe this is the first experiment in humans to show that the taste of an alcoholic drink alone, without any intoxicating effect from the alcohol, can elicit this dopamine activity in the brain's reward centers," says the lead author. If the connection to those with a family history of alcoholism holds true, the dopamine test might help gauge the vulnerability of those predisposed to alcohol abuse.