Friday, February 29, 2008

Jack Daniels: Scientist

despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.
-Smashing Pumpkins "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"

Again, I appear to have missed my calling. I came across a story today about some "research" done in Japan on the effects of alcohol, and whether or not one can actually drown one's sorrows.

So here's how they tested this:

The researchers, led by pharmacology professor Norio Matsuki, gave mild shocks to lab rats to condition them to fear. As a result, the rats would freeze in terror and curl up the moment they were put in their cages.

Researchers then immediately injected the rats with ethanol or saline.

Let me parse this a little bit. First, we have to consider from whose perspective should we consider the shocks "mild". Mild to humans (which can be at worst, uncomfortable, often beneficial, and in some cases pleasurable)? Because I'm not sure if a shock considered "mild" for a rat would condition a rat to fear and "freeze in terror and curl up" when it was put in it's cage. But I'm no expert on rats. So maybe it would. Or perhaps rats are particularly wary of needles, so the part that really scares them is the injection. That would explain the need to inject the saline in the control group. Because...what's the point of the saline?

Okay. So, experiment performed, here's what my scientist friends observed:

The researchers found that rats with alcohol in their veins froze up for longer, with the fear on average lasting two weeks, compared with rats that did not receive injections.

And the brilliant conclusion:

If we apply this study to humans, the memories they are trying to get rid of will remain strongly, even if they drink alcohol to try to forget an event they dislike and be in a merry mood for the moment...The following day, they won't remember the merriness that they felt.

Now, I've been performing experiments on myself involving various concentrations of alcohol derived from myriad sources for almost 20 years. I feel that my research has been pretty complete. I have used alcohol derived from grapes, mixtures of various grains, sugar, potatoes, and the occasional desert plant. I have avoided injections, preferring to ingest the chemicals orally.

While my research is ongoing, I feel that I can with confidence report the following observations:

  • Consumption of alcohol in large quantities changes the subject's perception of the intensity of a "mild" electrical shock.
  • Consumption of alcohol in large quantities eliminates the terror one feels when a "strong" electrical shock is administered. It's best to consume the alcohol BEFORE the administration of any stimulus that might lead to unpleasant memories.
  • Alcohol cannot erase memories created prior to its consumption when ingested in quantities that can be processed safely by the human body. Research in this area is ongoing.
  • Regular alcohol consumption over an extended period of time can interfere with one's ability to create new memories. One could extrapolate from here and determine that if one expects a future consisting of less-than-ideal circumstances, it's a good idea to drink early and often to avoid the the long term effects of the memories those circumstances might generate.
  • Memories created while consuming alcohol often lack detail and clarity. They cannot be trusted or used as evidence. Photographs taken of subjects of these experiments can be a useful tool for documentation, but can also be digitally altered. Don't believe everything you see.
  • The above two points are the key to avoiding the creation of additional unpleasant memories. The advantage to using the second method is that one is often heroic in the memories that are created during the consumption of alcohol. (Note: This is only effective is all persons who share the memory are also participating in the experiment.)

Now, I haven't written my findings up in some sort of sciencey format and published them in the journal "Neuropsychopharmacology" like my Japanese counterparts. But I'm willing to bet that my research has a lot more to do with the effects of alcohol on humans than theirs does. And the "merriness" that one feels...well...that's really the point, isn't it?

Stupid scientists.