Brain study shows why alcoholics fall off the wagon again... and again
(Medical Xpress) -- A new University of Sussex study adds to our understanding of why recovering alcoholic patients find it so hard to give up boozing for good.
Researchers looked at the behaviour and brain activity of alcoholic patients who had recently undergone detoxification, and found that the very act of detoxification from alcohol results in damage to the areas of the brain that veto spontaneous desire - such as the desire to drink.
And the really bad news is that repeated detoxifications cause further damage, making it even harder for alcoholics to remain dry.
Experimental psychologist Professor Dora Duka led research in which alcoholic patients or healthy social drinker volunteers were tasked with pressing the space bar on a keyboard every time either of two abstract patterns appeared on a screen.
For each correct press, they received 10p. The researchers then introduced an 'incentive conflict': every now and then both patterns were presented at the same time. However, pressing the space bar on these occasions resulted in losing 10p.
Social drinkers quickly learned to 'abstain' from pressing the space bar, but the alcoholic patients were unable to control their reward seeking, even though it led to loss of money. The degree of impairment was related to whether the abstaining alcoholic patients had experienced only a single detoxification prior to the test, or several.
In a second experiment, the researchers used brain imaging to identify which areas of the brain were activated in social drinkers while performing this task. When pressing the bar to gain money, the parts of the brain involved in processing 'reward' signals (the nucleus accumbens) lit up. But during the part of the task that required them to abstain, subregions within the area of the brain responsible for controlling desire (the prefrontal cortex ) were activated.
When the researchers then looked at the brains of alcoholic patients they found that they had reduced nerve cells (grey matter) in the prefrontal cortex. The more detoxifications they had undergone, the greater the damage and the less likely they were to control their desire.
Professor Duka says: "It has been known for some time that repeated detoxifications have deleterious effects on brain function, but this is the first study to suggest that they make it harder to abstain."
She adds that, when planning detoxifications of alcoholic patients, they, their medical advisers, and support teams need to ensure that everything is set up to give the optimal chance that a single detoxification is sufficient to accomplish control over drinking. "If it fails, and the patient relapses, it will become progressively more difficult to abstain on future occasions."
The paper, 'Unique Brain Areas Associated with Abstinence Control are Damaged in Multiply Detoxified Alchoholics' is published in the journal, Biological Psychiatry.
Provided by University of Sussex
- Mayo Clinic seeks new therapies for alcoholic hepatitis Dec 01, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- The brain can rapidly reorganise to recover from damage May 04, 2007 | not rated yet | 0
- The brain maintains language skills in spite of alcohol damage by drawing from other regions Mar 20, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- A new indicator for esophageal varix in alcoholic disease May 20, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Researchers Find Alcoholics Display Abnormal Brain Activity When Processing Facial Expressions Aug 11, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
There is a link between use of anabolic-androgenic steroids and reduced mental health later in life. This is the main conclusion of a new study on elite male strength athletes that researchers from the University of Gothenburg ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 59 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Bullying because of perceived sexual orientation is prevalent among school-aged youths, according to a study led by Donald Patrick, professor of health services at the UW School of Public ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Patients with the most severe and dangerous form of chronic anorexia are more likely to make a significant improvement towards recovery and stay in therapy if traditional psychological treatments are re-focused ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Patients with treatment-resistant major depression saw dramatic improvement in their illness after treatment with ketamine, an anesthetic, according to the largest ketamine clinical trial to-date led by researchers from the ...
Psychology & Psychiatry May 19, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (6) | 1 |
A new computer model could help scientists predict when a particular strain of avian influenza might become infectious from bird to human, according to a report to be published in the International Journal Data Mining an ...
2 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Over the past few decades, neuroscientists have made much progress in mapping the brain by deciphering the functions of individual neurons that perform very specific tasks, such as recognizing the location ...
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0 |
High-intensity, short duration warm up activities at half time intervals boost athletic performance, a study of soccer players has found.
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
In a new study described in the journal Oncogene, researchers reveal how a key player in cell growth, immunity and the inflammatory response can be transformed into a primary contributor to tumor growth.
2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Melbourne researchers have identified an immune protein that has the potential to stop or reverse the development of type 1 diabetes in its early stages, before insulin-producing cells have been destroyed.
4 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
More than a decade ago, British parents refused to give measles shots to at least a million children because of a vaccine scare that raised the specter of autism. Now, health officials are scrambling to catch ...
4 hours ago | not rated yet | 0