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How alcohol changes the way we think

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A group of friends drinking alcohol on a night out
21% of adults in England take alcohol in quantities that can affect their health (Source: GOV.UK)

Drinking is so embedded into our social lives we often forget the ways in which it can affect our mental state, but more than that, we forget entirely that alcohol is a drug like any other, with its own effects on the body and mind. More recently, studies are now showing that even moderate alcohol consumption puts at higher risk from alcohol-related diseases, which begs the question, what is alcohol doing to me?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol is a toxic substance with psychoactive properties which is responsible for 5.1% of the disease burden globally.

As documented by GOV.UK, 21% of adults in England take alcohol in quantities that increases their risk for ill health. Here is how alcohol changes the way we think.

What alcohol does to your brain

Alcohol is a psychoactive substance which alters your thoughts, consciousness, mood and behaviour. Additionally, larger quantities of alcohol may elicit depressive effects on the brain which may further affect your balance, mood, thought patterns, consciousness and behaviours. Effects of alcohol on the brain include:

Poor judgement

With alcohol intake, you lose the sense of awareness and rational thinking which puts you at a higher risk of making wrong decisions and poor judgement. Alcohol affects how the brain process situations and conditions which will further impair decisions you make regarding the situation. According to the NHS, 4-6 units of alcohol will alter that part of your brain responsible for decision-making causing you to lose all sense of restraint and become reckless.

Loss of memory

Black-outs associated with acute intake of alcohol are short periods of memory loss or gaps in your memory while intoxicated with alcohol. This happens as a result of the inhibitory effect of alcohol on the hippocampus where the consolidation of memories is carried out. This blocks the conversion of short-term memory to long-term memory.

Alcohol, in the long term, can also damage your brain and affect your ability to retain and remember certain information. In severe cases, you may develop what is called Alcohol-related dementia, which is a type of brain damage associated with long-term alcohol intake. The memory loss may be so severe that you may be unable to carry out day-to-day tasks, and may need a caregiver.

Loss of balance

Alcohol impairs the communication pathways in the brain which are responsible for maintaining balance. According to the NHS, 10 to 12 units of alcohol affects your coordination which may make you giddy and prone to accidents. Here, the depressive effect of alcohol begins to set in and may lead to sleepiness, drowsiness and staggered movements.

Impaired speech and vision

Alcohol affects the part of the brain that controls speech and vision and can lead to speech slurring and visual disturbances. The NHS documents that 8 to 9 units of alcohol will cause your speech to slur and lead to a lack of visual focus. You may also begin to have visual hallucinations, that is, seeing things that are not there.

Dependence and addiction

Alcohol is a highly addictive substance which can lead to dependence and subsequent addiction. Alcohol dependence is characterised by the strong drive to increase the amount of alcohol you take and is caused by repeated intake of alcohol over a long period. Addiction ensues when you are unable to control your alcohol intake despite the negative impact it has on your life and family.

Permanent alterations to brain structure

A study documented in the Oxford Academic Press highlighted that long-term alcohol intake can lead to a loss of brain tissue such as grey and white matter. Adolescents are particularly at risk for this alteration due to the ongoing brain development at that stage of their life.

The effect of alcohol on your mental health

In addition to the harmful effects of alcohol on the brain, your mental health is also at risk when you take large amounts of alcohol over a long period. As documented by GOV.UK, about a quarter of 589,000 people who have alcohol dependence are most likely receiving mental health therapy for depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorders and sleep disturbances.

Anxiety and depression

Alcohol intake constantly drives the brain into an aversive state which promotes the feeling of anxiety and depression. Additionally, alcohol stimulates the GABA receptors which puts you in a constant state of anxiety. Furthermore, the depressive effect of long-term use of alcohol will lead to mood depression. In certain cases, suicidal ideation may follow depression.

Psychosis

Long-term intake of alcohol can cause changes in the brain’s neuronal pathway and deficiency of vitamin B1(thiamine), which leads to the development of psychosis. Psychosis may also occur as a withdrawal syndrome after you suddenly stop or reduce your alcohol intake.

Long-Term health effects of alcohol

Other long-term effects of alcohol as documented by the NHS include:

  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Urinary incontinence
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased blood cholesterol levels
  • High risk of stroke
  • Liver damage and failure
  • Oral cancers
  • Liver cancers
  • Breast cancer
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Intestinal or stomach cancers
  • Issues with fertility
  • Decreased sexual stamina such as premature ejaculation
  • Pancreatitis

Signs of alcohol addiction

There are signs which are indicative of alcohol addiction and they include:

  • Having a strong desire or urge to drink alcohol
  • Being unable to curtail or regulate how much alcohol you drink and when you drink it.
  • Continuing to drink alcohol despite the negative impact it is having on your life, relationships and health.
  • Excluding yourself from activities or events so you could spend more time drinking alcohol.
  • Needing to increase the quantity of alcohol you take to feel its effect. This is also known as tolerance.

How to overcome an addiction to alcohol

Addictions can be overwhelming and very difficult to tackle. It takes consistency, perseverance and support.

Ways to overcome alcohol addiction include:

  1. Consciously cut down your alcohol intake, or better still, replace alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic options.
  2. Get support: Addictions are difficult to overcome on your own, and you can access support via the following:

Support groups: These are groups where people suffering from similar addictions come together to share their experiences in their recovery journey. Some of these support groups include:

Alcohol Detoxification Services: These services are there for you to help ease withdrawal symptoms while you detox.

Therapeutic Services: These are treatment facilities that offer therapeutic treatment  while you recover from your addiction. These services may be online, in-person (outpatient) or residential-based.

Olivia Miller is a journalist and blogger regularly collaborating with media outlets and writing about entrepreneurship, brand authority and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

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Cannes opens with French comedy and honorary award for Meryl Streep

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Actress Juliette Binoche hands an award to Meryl Steep
Meryl Streep receives a honorary Palme D’Or from Juliette Binoche | Photo: Andrea Rentz

The 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival officially opened last night with Quentin Dupieux’s Le Deuxième Acte (The Second Act), and an honorary Palme d’Or awarded to American actress Meryl Streep.

Presented Out of Competition as a world premiere on the Croisette last night, May 14, this four-part comedy was also released in all French cinemas on the same day. The film stars Lea Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Louis Garrel and Raphaël Quenard playing squabbling actors filming a movie produced and directed by artificial intelligence.

The opening ceremony of the 77th Festival de Cannes, hosted at the  Grand Théâtre Lumière, also had American actress Meryl Streep as a guest of honour.

Streep received the Festival’s Honorary Palme d’or, 35 years after winning the Best Actress award for Evil Angels, her only appearance in Cannes until last night.

“My mother, who is usually right about everything, said to me: ’Meryl, my darling, you’ll see. It all goes so fast. So fast,″ added Streep. “And it has, and it does. Except for my speech, which is too long,” said the three time Oscar award-winning actress.

Last year French Film director Justine Triet won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or for her murder mystery film “Anatomy of a Fall” becoming the third female filmmaker ever to win the prize, which was first awarded in 1955. 

The 77th Cannes Film Festival is set to run until May 25th, when the Palme d’Or winners will be revealed, 2024.

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Exhibition in Madrid reveals science and technology behind Pixar’s films

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Exhibition in Madrid reveals science and technology behind Pixar’s films
The Science Behind Pixar can be seen at CaixaForum Madrid until 8 September.

CaixaForum Madrid is currently hosting The Science Behind Pixar exhibition, created by the Museum of Science, Boston, in collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios. The exhibition is divided into eight sections, corresponding to the steps in the process Pixar uses to transform an idea into a film. With specific examples from some of their most famous films, the public will be able to experiment with the techniques behind the modelling, rigging, surfaces, sets and cameras, animation, simulation, lighting and rendering of animated films.

This is the third collaboration between the ”la Caixa” Foundation and Pixar Studios. In 2015, Pixar: 25 Years of Animation, represented a thorough review of this pioneering company’s work in computer animation in its 25 years of history. Subsequently, Pixar, Building Characters (which has travelled to five CaixaForums since 2020) focused on the visual design of the Pixar characters to best transmit the story and fit in with the other elements of the film. Now, the eight sections of The Science Behind Pixar will give visitors an insight into every stage of the technical process used by Pixar’s artists and computer scientists

The aim of the new exhibition is to peel away, layer by layer and in a way that is attractive for all audiences, the scientific, computer and mathematical concepts that lie behind our favourite Pixar characters. To do this, the exhibition is organised into eight sections, each of which explains in depth one specific step of Pixar’s technical process: Modelling, which allows characters to be created in 3D; Rigging, in which the virtual bones, muscles and joints are developed; design of Surfaces and Sets; Animation, which brings the story to life; Simulation, which provides automated movements; Lighting, which enhances the emotional impact, and Rendering, which turns 3D scenes into 2D images.

Throughout 815 square metres in CaixaForum Madrid, visitors will learn about all these steps that Pixar pays passionate attention to in order to bring its worlds and characters to life. Dozens of interactive and audiovisual elements will reveal what is hidden behind Pixar films, from the first-ever computer-animated feature film – Toy Story – which opened over two decades ago, to the release of Turning Red.

To better understand the science and maths that go into creating the worlds and characters of Pixar’s films, visitors will see audiovisuals and hear first-hand from members of the studios’ production teams. They will also be invited to experience different roles within the production pipeline, through screen-based activities and physical interactive elements.

In the Sets & Cameras section, for example, visitors will discover how camera placement and angles created a bug’s-eye view for A Bug’s Life; in Modelling, they will try their hand at creating a digital sculpture from an artist’s sketch and in Lighting they will use lights to solve challenges similar to ones Pixar faced in creating underwater scenes with virtual light in Finding Nemo. The exhibition route also includes human-size recreations of many Pixar film characters, such as Buzz Lightyear (Toy Story), Dory (Finding Nemo), Mike and Sulley (Monsters, Inc.), Edna Mode (The Incredibles) and WALL·E (from the film of the same name).

Throughout the months that the exhibition will remain at CaixaForum Madrid, the ”la Caixa” Foundation will be offering various activities to bring the art and science of Pixar closer to all audiences. In addition, the general public can take a guided tour and families can choose between the family tour and the animated stories workshop-tour, where visitors can make a short, animated clip to understand all the phases of the creative process after visiting the exhibition.

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Switzerland wins Eurovision song contest with non-binary singer

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Non-binary singer Nemo, winner of the Eurovision 2024
Singer Nemo performed ‘The Code’ for Switzerland | Photo: Alma Bengtsson

After the very last set of scores had come in, The Code, performed by rapper Neno, was announced as the clear champion of the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 with a points tally of 591 and a lead of 44 points. 

Croatia finished in second place with Rim Tim Tagi Dim by Baby Lasagna on 547 points. The other spot on the podium finish went to Ukraine, ending up in third place thanks to alyona alyona & Jerry Heil with their song Teresa & Maria, on 453 points.

Scores on the night were awarded in two stages, as is traditional at the Eurovision Song Contest. The first results to come in were from the juries, followed by the reveal of the public vote.

Once the initial points from 37 juries had come in, Switzerland already had secured the lead on the scoreboard with 365 points.

Nemo is the first nonbinary artist to win Eurovision.

“I’m mostly just really grateful for this experience and all the friends I’ve made along the way. This was one of the most queer representations we’ve seen at Eurovision which was amazing, I want to shout out all the other queer artists this year,” said the artist who was born in Biel, a small bilingual town in Switzerland.

Nemo’s triumph in Malmö is Switzerland’s third win at the Eurovision Song Contest to date, following victory by Lys Assia in 1956 and Céline Dion in 1988.

Switzerland first participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1956, winning the very first edition of the competition, which it also hosted. 

It has been a controversial year for the song contest festival launched in 1956. For weeks, the question of whether Israel should be allowed to compete or not while engaged in a military conflict in Gaza dominated the media surrounding the event and attracted pro-Palestine activists to the Swedish city of Malmö. Eden Golan, a 20-year old singer representing Israel, was booed during a dress rehearsal; It has been reported that she was confined to her hotel room, while in Malmo to perform at Eurovision, after a series of threats against the Israeli delegation. Hours before the grand final, on May 11th, Dutch rapper Joost Klein, who represented the Netherlands, was disqualified from Eurovision 2024 over what the organisers described as an “incident” involving a female member of the production crew.

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