Scientists show you can’t get drunk by placing your feet in Vodka

Scientists show you can’t get drunk by placing your feet in Vodka

Time to give up on that Jameson Jacuzzi...

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.org

Scientists have tested the old Danish myth that it is possible to get drunk by submerging your feet in alcohol. Their results, indicate that unfortunately a Fosters footbath is unlikely to become the new way to consume your drinks.

Figure 1: The data on the participants

The selfless scientists from the Department of Cardiology at Hillerød Hospital became the test subjects (Figure 1), declaring themselves ‘free of chronic skin and liver disease and non-dependent on alcohol and psychoactive drugs’. The really interesting thing about this study, besides the just plain weirdness of the question being asked, is the methodology. The researchers abstained from alcohol for 24 Hrs prior to the study and also each cleaned their feet with a loofah the night before testing began.

In the study itself the researchers submerged their feet in washing bowls containing three 700mL bottles of vodka (37.5% by volume). They then recorded the level of drunkenness using the concentration of plasma ethanol and a more interesting secondary outcome for 3 hours ‘a timeframe corresponding to a medium length visit to the local pub’.  This method contains my Research Quote of The Week:

The secondary outcome was self assessment of intoxication related symptoms (self-confidence, urge to speak, and number of spontaneous hugs)”

Figure 2: Self assessed intoxication related symptoms

The results of the blood plasma ethanol levels were all below the detection limit of 2.2 mmol/L and the secondary outcome results (Figure 2) were deemed not significant. Although they did observe that after the experiment the skin on the researchers feet was ‘clean and smooth’.

This study obviously does have its weaknesses. There was no control group, only 3 participants and clearly isn’t the most revolutionary discovery science has ever made. But, I do think this research is important, if only because it shows that scientists aren’t stuffy and boring and that they do have a sense of humour. A point highlighted by the conclusion to their paper:

‘New pastimes, such as “eyeball drinking,” have emerged. The significance of this activity is unknown. Rumour has it that it makes you drunk fast . . . and may damage your eyes’

ResearchBlogging.org

Hansen CS, Faerch LH, & Kristensen PL (2010). Testing the validity of the Danish urban myth that alcohol can be absorbed through feet: open labelled self experimental study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 341 PMID: 21156749

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Beer Bottle Full or Empty: Which is Best as a Weapon?

Beer Bottle Full or Empty: Which is Best as a Weapon?

It’s a question that I am sure many of you have asked yourself. If that angry looking person over there decided to hit me over the head with a bottle, would it be better if it were finished or full? Well thankfully a research paper has the answer and contains my ‘Research Quote of the Week’!

“Fights are commonly carried out with fists, feet, furniture and drinking vessels”

So, why would you want to research this? Well, Dr Bolliger and his Switzerland based team wanted to see “if the amount of energy exceeds the energy necessary to inflict serious injuries to a victim”, with the goal of aiding forensic science.

Figure 1: The 'Weapon of Choice'

Now, its difficult enough making a choice what to drink when in your local pub, let alone to think about its potential use for research/weaponry. The researchers selected Feldschösschen in half litre bottles, the reasons for this choice were not made clear in the article (Figure 1). It was a small study, with 10 bottles used (4 full and 6 empty).

The strength of the bottles was then tested using a drop-tower (apparatus in which weights are dropped onto materials to test their properties. The bottles were place on their sides and had a wooden board attached to them (to cause a more dispersed impact similar to what the cranium would experience) and soft clay used to represent the brain soft tissue (As seen in Figure 2). A 1 kg heavy steel ball was dropped from different heights (minimum 2 m, maximum 4 m) onto the bottles.

They observed that full beer bottles tolerated energies of up to 25 J, but burst at 30 J. Whereas, empty shattered at 40J. Again, it is worth pointing out that this is a small study. But, the results are interesting ( especially for those with alcohol induced anger issues) as it indicates that the bottles make a much more suitable “club” than the traditional UK pint glass (shatters at 1.7 J). But, why does this difference occur, and which bottle would hurt more to get hit by!?

There are two main theories as to why the difference occurs:

  1. Beer is an almost “incompressible fluid” and even a slight deformation could lead to an increase of the pressure within the bottle and its destruction.
  2. As beer is carbonated. The gas pressure, and may assist in the destruction of the bottle.

Figure 2: The bottle in position

And the ouch factor? Well, as the study looked at impacts on the bottle and not made by the bottle as little mathematical recalculation is required to calculate the amount of work needed to swing the bottle and its imapact force. The researchers conclude the following:

“full bottle will strike a target with almost 70% more energy than an empty bottle. In other words, it takes less muscle work to achieve a greater striking energy when fighting with a full bottle, even though lifting the bottle requires slightly more energy.”

In terms of damage to the skull electrohydraulic experiments using human cadaver heads had previously shown that the skull is fractured by 14.1 – 68.5 J depending on the area hit. Implying, that both full and empty bottles could fracture areas of the skull.

So, there we have it. If you are a bit weak and want to cause harm an enemy with a beer bottle, either will do the job. But, choose a full bottle for that extra force in your hit.

ResearchBlogging.org

Bolliger, S., Ross, S., Oesterhelweg, L., Thali, M., & Kneubuehl, B. (2009). Are full or empty beer bottles sturdier and does their fracture-threshold suffice to break the human skull? Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 16 (3), 138-142 DOI: 10.1016/j.jflm.2008.07.013

Research Quote of the Week: Alcohol, Nudity & Himalayan Bears

Research Quote of the Week: Alcohol, Nudity & Himalayan Bears

As a bit of a new theme I am going to each week post up an odd or fascinating quote from a peer reviewed research article. I hope that this will show how awesome science can be and publicise research is not in mainstream consciousness.

This week the quote is:

“We had no logical explanation for the fact that he was found naked in the cage”

This sentence came from an unusual piece of research  detailing what happened when a Serbian man got drunk and decided to climb inside an enclosure with some Black Himalayan Bears. He was found, naked and half eaten the next day.

The research mainly concerned itself with the unusual way in which the bears attacked the individual. In the wild their normal focus of attack is the face but, in this instance it was the individuals torso and legs that appeared to have taken the brunt of the attack.  As well as this, it was found that the bears had consumed a proportion of the individual which is not typical bear attack behaviour. They theorised that the differences in behaviour may be due to living in captivity in a major city (Belgrade).

Would you like to see what happened to the man? Well due to the rather gruesome nature of the photos, I felt I should have them a little hidden. If you want to see, click on the image of the bear below:

Click on the image to see the effects of the attack

ResearchBlogging.org

Mihailovic Z, Savic S, Damjanjuk I, Stanojevic A, & Milosevic M (2011). A Case of a Fatal Himalayan Black Bear Attack in the Zoo. Journal of forensic sciences PMID: 21361947

Teen Rebellion Mapped in the Brain

Teen Rebellion Mapped in the Brain

A new study carried out at the University of Pittsburgh has indicated what might be the cause of teenagers risky behaviour.

The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, involved observing the brains of adolescent and mature rats during a reward activity. The team led by Bita Moghaddam used electrodes to show brain cell activity. They found that the brains of the adolescent mice reacted with a great deal more excitement that the mature adult brains (as seen below in Figure 1). This increased stimulation was observed along with a loss of organisation of brain cell function.

 

Figure 1: A graph showing the increase or decrease of neuronal firing during the reward activity (each line represents a neuron)

It is believed that this could be the reason why teenagers show an increased level of  rash behavior, addiction, and mental diseases. This was enforced y the results seen when the researchers investigated the orbitofrontal cortex, a region thought to weigh up payoffs and punishments in decision making.

“The disorganized and excess excitatory activity we saw in this part of the brain means that reward and other stimuli are processed differently by adolescents,” Moghaddam said. “This could intensify the effect of reward on decision-making and answer several questions regarding adolescent behaviour, from their greater susceptibility to substance abuse to their more extreme reactions to pleasurable and upsetting experiences.”

Whilst this study may give potential a chemical reason why teenagers are prone to poor judgement, it is unlikely that blaming the orbitofrontal cortex is likely to work as an excuse!

Source:

Moghaddam et al (2011). Reduced Neuronal Inhibition and Coordination of Adolescent Prefrontal Cortex during Motivated Behavior. J Neuro. 31(4):1471-1478


“Cure” for Alcoholism Discovered

This was originally published in ‘The Nerve’ the Southampton Biological Society Paper:

Alcoholism is a growing problem in the UK, consumption of Alcohol is constantly on the rise and the number of the people being treated on the NHS for alcoholism has never been higher. It is a good omen therefore that there has emerged from France talk of a ‘cure’.

Dr Olivier Ameisen is an eminent French Cardiologist and reformed alcoholic. Having spent month in rehabilitation clinics with little effect Ameisen set about finding a solution to his malady himself. After reading that the muscle relaxant Baclofen had an unexpected effect of reducing alcohol and cocaine addiction on dogs he self prescribed and the results he says were “magical”, he states he immediately felt less of an impulse to drink.

This revelation has caused quite a commotion in Ameisen’s native France with many demands from Alcoholics to receive this treatment. Some doctors have obliged their patient’s requests and claim to have seen “pretty miraculous” results.

However despite the band wagon being pretty full of hopeful alcoholics and doctors it may be some time before Baclofen is a certified treatment. Alcoholism frequently has a psychological factor, a reason the individual was driven to drink in the first place. Without someone addressing these issues then who is to say they would not move on to other recreational substances to deal with their problems.  As well as this, due to it being an untested treatment the action the drug takes is unknown or any long term implications of taking it. So while promising the news of this ‘cure’ should, while heartening, be treated with caution.