fMRI Study Finds Differences Between Male and Female Brains in Alcoholism
News May 02, 2019 | Original story from Boston University School of Medicine
An MRI scanner. Credit: Ptrump16 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Compared to alcoholic women, alcoholic men have more diminished brain activity in areas responsible for emotional processing (limbic regions including the amygdala and hippocampus), as well as memory and social processing (cortical regions including the superior frontal and supramarginal regions) among other functions.
In 2015, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health Alcoholism found 15.1 million adults have Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Although it is among the leading maladies worldwide, the abnormalities in emotional processing that underlie the problem are not well understood. To date, most published works describing brain abnormalities associated with AUD do not address gender differences, but have relied primarily upon research with alcoholic men or combined gender groups.
Previous research among alcoholics has found particular regions of the brain have muted responses to highly charged visual imagery. This study identified how the abnormalities associated with alcoholism in these brain regions differed for men and women.
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), in conjunction with the VA Boston Healthcare System and Massachusetts General Hospital, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the difference in brain activity between highly charged visual images and neutral images. “Our findings indicate that the experiences and mechanisms of AUD and addiction differ for men and women,” explained corresponding author Kayle S. Sawyer, PhD, from the department of anatomy and neurobiology at BUSM.
According to the researchers, both the general public and medical professionals typically treat AUD as a homogenous disease, without distinguishing between men and women. “This study provides insights into emotional processing in alcoholism by examining the influence of gender on brain activation.”
Although additional research is needed, the authors believe these findings may one day lead to prevention and treatment strategies specifically tailored by gender.
This article has been republished from materials provided by Boston University School of Medicine. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.
Reference: Sawyer, K. S., Maleki, N., Urban, T., Marinkovic, K., Karson, S., Ruiz, S. M., … Oscar-Berman, M. (2019). Alcoholism gender differences in brain responsivity to emotional stimuli. ELife, 8, e41723. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.41723
Brain regions governing both executive functioning and sensory input are involved in moderating the relationship between dysphoric mood and pain. The findings, derived from an exploratory analysis of fMRI, may explain why the ability to govern the ruminative thought process can be harder in depressed persons.READ MORE
A new type of opioid doesn’t have the side effects (such as increased pain sensitivity or and increased risk of chronic pain) associated with morphine and other opioid-based painkillers, and accelerates recovery time from pain compared to morphine, according to a new preclinical study.READ MORE