Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Neuroimaging Identifies Brain Regions Possibly Involved In Alcohol Craving

Date:
April 16, 2001
Source:
NIH/National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism
Summary:
Viewing pictures of alcoholic beverages activates the prefrontal cortex and the anterior thalamus in alcoholics but not in moderate drinkers, report Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) researchers in the April Archives of General Psychiatry. The research team is the first to use fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to examine whether alcohol cues stimulate specific brain regions.

Viewing pictures of alcoholic beverages activates the prefrontal cortex and the anterior thalamus in alcoholics but not in moderate drinkers, report Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) researchers in the April Archives of General Psychiatry. The research team is the first to use fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to examine whether alcohol cues stimulate specific brain regions.

"The activated brain regions are known to be associated with attention and regulating emotion and are prominent components of working models of alcohol craving," said National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Director Enoch Gordis, M.D. "Whether the activity in these areas accompanies craving or is in part responsible for it remains to be determined."

"The regions activated in this study should not yet be interpreted as correlates of craving per se," said lead author Mark S. George, M.D., of the Departments of Psychiatry, Radiology, and Neurology at MUSC. "Our next project uses fMRI scans to measure subjective craving in real time so that we can relate subjective craving temporally to the presentation of visual cues."

For the current study, the researchers recruited eight male and two female alcoholics and an equal number of moderate-drinking (no more than 14 drinks per week) controls matched according to age and gender. The alcoholics met DSM-IV criteria for alcohol dependence, drank an average of seven drinks per drinking day, and drank on about 70 percent of days in the month before testing. They were not severe alcoholics or in treatment at the time of study.

All 20 subjects viewed pictures on a screen while lying on their backs in a 1.5-Tesla MRI scanner. For nine minutes, they were shown a series of photographs of alcoholic beverages followed by a series of nonalcoholic beverages (e.g., coffee, juice, soda) in random order. To heighten their responses to alcohol cues, the subjects were given a sip of an alcoholic beverage before viewing the images. The researchers compared mean group images of brain activity during the alcohol and nonalcohol pictures, exposing in the alcoholic group several brain areas with unique activity during the alcohol pictures.

"Our goals were to learn whether certain brain areas would be activated for the alcohol cues but not the neutral cues and whether brain areas in alcoholics would be activated differently than those of moderate drinkers," said Raymond F. Anton, M.D., a lead study author and Scientific Director of the NIAAA-funded MUSC Alcohol Research Center. "In fact, we saw clearly that certain brain regions in alcoholics activated in response to viewing pictures with alcohol-specific content. It appears that the alcoholics paid greater attention to the alcohol images."

"This work confirms a significant biological and brain component to alcoholism and provides information toward understanding the differences between alcoholics and nonalcoholics," said Dr. George.

Future studies may examine regional brain activity following the administration of naltrexone, a medication believed to reduce alcohol craving, say the authors. Imaging studies are expected eventually to predict risk for both uncontrolled drinking and relapse and to evaluate potential anticraving medications.

Although many alcoholics report craving, an intense desire or "drug hunger" for alcohol, researchers have not arrived at a common understanding of the phenomenon. Most agree that craving involves neuroadaptation--changes in brain cell function resulting from long-term alcohol consumption. Neuroadaptation produces an imbalance in brain activity and enhanced memories of alcohol reward that may increase drinking or, during periods of abstinence or reduced drinking, lead to relapse. Alcohol-related stimuli known as cues may trigger the neuroadapted brain to crave alcohol.

While animal experiments suggest that craving is associated with certain brain regions (neuroanatomy) and neurotransmitters (neurochemistry), such models are limited by the animals' inability to report how they feel. In humans, craving is experienced differently at different stages of alcohol addiction and differently among drinkers at any single stage, complicating attempts to measure it accurately. To improve both measurement and understanding of the craving phenomenon, researchers are looking to new technologies such as the fMRI technique used in today's study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NIH/National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NIH/National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism. "Neuroimaging Identifies Brain Regions Possibly Involved In Alcohol Craving." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 April 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010415222826.htm>.
NIH/National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism. (2001, April 16). Neuroimaging Identifies Brain Regions Possibly Involved In Alcohol Craving. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010415222826.htm
NIH/National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism. "Neuroimaging Identifies Brain Regions Possibly Involved In Alcohol Craving." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010415222826.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Painkiller Overdose Deaths?

Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Painkiller Overdose Deaths?

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A new study found fewer deaths from prescription drug overdoses in states that have legalized medical marijuana. But experts disagree on the results. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Heart Group: E-Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit

Heart Group: E-Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit

AP (Aug. 25, 2014) The American Heart Association's first policy statement on electronic cigarettes backs them as a last resort to help smokers quit and calls for more regulation to keep them away from youth. (Aug. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Push For Later Start Times As School Year Kicks Off

Doctors Push For Later Start Times As School Year Kicks Off

Newsy (Aug. 25, 2014) The American Academy of Pediatrics is the latest group pushing for middle schools and high schools to start later, for the sake of their kids. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins