Conversations in Science
for K-12 Educators

A program conceived and organized by the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the collaboration of the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Edgewood Sonderegger Science Center.

Thursday, November 11th, 2004 at 4:00 p.m.

Ethanol: The Dose, Effects and Side-effects of the World's Second
Most Popular Drug

Kevin T. Strang, Ph. D.
Lecturer in the Physiology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Alcohol has widespread pharmacological effects on the brain, as well as the digestive, urinary, cardiovascular and endocrine systems, and the ratio of desirable effects to undesirable side effects are highly dependent upon the dose. A unique and fascinating characteristic of alcohol, however, is that its physiological effects can be wildly different between individuals, and even in the same individual drinking under different circumstances. In this lecture I will discuss the mechanisms underlying alcohol's effects and side effects on the brain and other body systems, and address popular questions such as: “Why do drunk people talk so loud? Why are beer and brats a great team? Does being light make you a “lightweight”?” and, “Is taking aspirin after drinking preventive medicine, or the coup de grace?”

About the Presenter:

Kevin Strang has been a Lecturer in the Physiology Department at the UW-Madison Medical School for the past 10 years, and is a co-author on the nation's best-selling college physiology text: Vander's Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function. His education includes a B.A. in Biology from Augustana College, Illinois, and an M.S. in Zoology and a Ph.D. in Physiology from UW-Madison. He teaches both undergraduate and medical physiology courses, and serves on the steering committee of the Institute for Cross-college Biology Education. For the past three years he has focused on the physiological effects of ethanol, as part of an interdisciplinary course for freshmen, called "Alcohol, Behavior, Culture and Science."

Suggestions for reading:

Braun, Stephen. (1996). Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Kuhn, Cynthia, Scott Swartzwelder and Wilkie Wilson. (1998). Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. New York, N.Y., W.W. Norton &Co.

Steele, Claude M. and Robert A. Josephs. Alcohol Myopia: Its Prized and Dangerous Effects. American Psychologist, 45(8), pp. 921-933, (1990).