Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How threat, reward and stress come together to predict problem drinking

Date:
November 14, 2012
Source:
BioMed Central Limited
Summary:
Having a drink after a stressful day at work may seem like a natural response for some, but can your neural circuits predict when a drink or two will become problem drinking? A new study suggests that may be the case. The study describes a highly novel mechanism predicting problem drinking in college students from fMRI data measuring individual differences in the functioning of reward and threat circuits in the brain.

Having a drink after a stressful day at work may seem like a natural response for some, but can your neural circuits predict when a drink or two will become problem drinking? A study published in BioMed Central's open-access journal Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders suggests that may be the case. The study describes a highly novel mechanism predicting problem drinking in college students from fMRI data measuring individual differences in the functioning of reward and threat circuits in the brain.

Related Articles


Using data from the first 200 participants in the ongoing Duke Neurogenetics Study, the authors show that recent life stress (e.g., failing exams, trouble at home, bad relationships) leads to increased problem drinking. In and of itself, this is hardly novel. However, the authors go on to demonstrate that this stress-related problem drinking only occurs in students who have a specific combination of neural circuit functioning. Specifically, problem drinking related to stress emerges only in students who have both a highly reactive reward circuitry (i.e., ventral striatum) and a hypo-reactive threat circuitry (i.e., amygdala).

In other words, stress can lead to problem drinking if you have a strong reward drive (motivating you toward drinking) coupled with a weak threat drive (keeping you away from drinking). Or, as senior author Ahmad Hariri puts it: "Imagine the push and pull of opposing drives when a mouse confronts a hunk of cheese in a trap. Too much drive for the cheese and too little fear of the trap leads to one dead mouse."

The results of this study provide evidence of a novel mechanism for stress-related drinking emphasizing the importance of the balance between the reactivity of the reward and threat circuits of the brain rather than only the reward system, which has been historically the focus of drug abuse research. This work further highlights a novel protective role for the amygdala, which has been historically the focus of research into the risk for and pathophysiology of mood and anxiety disorders.

Yuliya Nikolova, who is the lead author of the study, thinks these findings may be useful for identifying individuals at particularly high risk for developing alcohol use disorders in the wake of stress, commenting "Future research identifying factors, such as genetic polymorphisms, that may predict variability in neural responsiveness to threat and reward could lead to the development of biomarkers for drug abuse risk and interventions targeting those phenotypes." Hariri adds: "We're very excited about these findings as they nicely bring together our parallel programs of research on individual differences in threat and reward processes, and represent an extension of such individual differences into a real-world phenomenon."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BioMed Central Limited. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yuliya S Nikolova, Ahmad R Hariri. Neural responses to threat and reward interact to predict stress-related problem drinking: A novel protective role of the amygdala. Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders, 2012; 2 (1): 19 DOI: 10.1186/2045-5380-2-19

Cite This Page:

BioMed Central Limited. "How threat, reward and stress come together to predict problem drinking." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121113214641.htm>.
BioMed Central Limited. (2012, November 14). How threat, reward and stress come together to predict problem drinking. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121113214641.htm
BioMed Central Limited. "How threat, reward and stress come together to predict problem drinking." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121113214641.htm (accessed March 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Newsy (Mar. 24, 2015) According to a new study by the Alzheimer&apos;s Association, more than half of those who have the degenerative brain disease aren&apos;t told by their doctors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

Newsy (Mar. 23, 2015) Researchers found those who napped for 45 minutes to an hour before being tested on information recalled it five times better than those who didn&apos;t. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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