The findings suggest that the level of brain activity in regions of the brain that assess risk is lower in substance-dependent individuals than those who are not drug- or alcohol-dependent. These two groups process the messages differently, particularly those messages that emphasize loss or reduced prospects for gain.
The research contributes to a growing body of health communication literature that examines the impact of particular types of messages on the neural mechanisms involved in making risky decisions. It also contributes to a larger story about the regions of the brain that are activated in response to risk and danger. One particular region, the anterior cingulate cortex, is heavily involved in a variety of clinical disorders including drug abuse, ADHD, autism, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
At stake, Brown notes, are hundreds of billions in health care costs and lost productivity, as well as questions about public policy and how best to discourage drug abuse.
"The government spends millions every year trying to discourage drug use, and a lot of the ads highlight the dangers of drugs," he said. "Should we spend more to highlight the benefits of staying clean instead?"
Brown said they can't yet say whether positive messages are more effective at reducing drug use because their experiment involved decisions about money rather than drugs. They are working on it, though, and have just started to look at how people make decisions with respect to drugs.
|Contact: Liz Rosdeitcher|